Kraft Sticks to Company Motto - Should You?

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NORTHFIELD, Ill. (TheStreet) -- Consumer-food giant Kraft Foods (Stock Quote: KFT) leapt into headlines recently with its $16.7 billion hostile bid for Cadbury (Stock Quote: CBY), a bold move by Chief Executive Irene Rosenfeld to boost her company's global presence.

Cadbury's management isn't exactly rejoicing over the potential takeover. The London-based company rejected the offer, saying it was too low, even though Kraft would have been paying a premium.

Kraft finds itself in the same position as many other American companies, large and small. It's attempting to expand its market share in a brutally competitive retail environment. And it's trying to convince its employees that they need to help shake things up at the Northfield, Ill.-based foodmaker.

Amid her reorganizing and strategizing, Rosenfeld gave the company a mantra: "Make today delicious." It's a simple, concise phrase that sums up the essence of Kraft's mission.

Does your company have a motto? Something less formal than a mission statement that lets people know what you stand for?

A guiding principle delivered in a clear phrase can be valuable if your company is trying to change its strategy or focus. But it only works if managers show employees how to live up to the firm's goals.

Kraft's "make today delicious" focuses on what can be done now. The word "delicious" highlights the importance of taste in Kraft's products, which include Cheez Whiz, Kool-Aid drinks and Ritz crackers. It's also a word with upbeat, appealing associations.

The company also developed seven core values that employees are expected to strive for. They are:

  • We inspire trust.
  • We act like owners.
  • We keep it simple.
  • We are open and inclusive.
  • We tell it like it is.
  • We lead from the head and the heart.
  • We discuss. We decide. We deliver.

It's easy to be cynical about morale-boosting mantras handed down from the executive suite. Just because a CEO says a company is inclusive or trustworthy doesn't mean it is. But laying out your expectations is critical for small companies, where there's less separation between owner and employee.

A set of core values tells your employees exactly what's expected of them. If you live by those values and show how they apply to day-to-day operations, they will become part of your company's DNA. The ideal can become reality.

Stated values can also give you a way to evaluate employees' progress. If you own a small manufacturing firm and make accuracy and efficiency your goals, you can reward employees based on how they deliver on those measures. If you run a chain of hot dog stands that tries to be fun and family-friendly, you can judge employees on how they sell hot dogs rather than just how many they sell.

Kraft's bid for Cadbury is consistent with its corporate goals, even if it doesn't successfully acquire the British food company. It's going after a company that would increase its reputation for "deliciousness." It's moving ahead openly and decisively.

Will it work? Who knows. It's impossible to know if a company motto will transform the way you do business. But having one and making sure your employees understand your mission will put you on the right path.

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