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Jan 1, 2003 12:00 AM

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How employees perceive their company's view of the future has a profound effect on a business. It determines whether people will stay with their jobs or leave for more challenging or rewarding opportunities. If a CEO's expectations for the business compromise employees' personal values or sense of purpose, a spirit of conflict inevitably arises. If, on the other hand, employees embrace the future in a personal way, an energizing force develops — one that creates a spirit of teamwork and trust.


Building alignment around a shared view of the future is a long-term undertaking. Capturing and communicating that vision in a way that motivates customers and others to immediately want to know more, however, is a 30-second solution that we call the “Oh Really Quotient.”

In most business or social situations, you have about 30 seconds to explain what your company does before being met with glazed eyes and swallowed yawns. The challenge is to crystallize the essence of your company's vision into a 30-second sound bite that prompts prospects and acquaintances to respond, “Oh really? Tell me more.”

That's the O.R. Quotient, and it directly correlates to your company's view of the future. Here's how the O.R. Quotient works at a composite company we will call AccuPrint and Packaging Co., a niche provider of printing and packaging to the pharmaceutical industry.

Although the company is a multigenerational business, AccuPrint entered the 1990s facing erosion in market share. Competition was fierce — a handful of major pharmaceutical manufacturers controlled the market and reduced their print and packaging supply chain to a preferred few. Pharmaceutical printers also faced strict government regulations for safe packaging as well as increased exposure to litigation as a result of faulty labeling.

These factors, coupled with the high cost of doing business in a metropolitan market, were cutting into AccuPrint's margins. The company's board faced desperate choices: leverage AccuPrint's manufacturing capabilities into commercial-printing markets; uproot employees and their families, and relocate operations to a more business-friendly community; or sell the enterprise and benefit from what equity remained.

Rather than change the nature of its business and move away from the niche specialization that had been its strength over several generations, AccuPrint's management team decided to face the market's advancing expectations for accuracy and accountability head-on.

The team came to see the company more as guardian and protector than as printer. They viewed their primary role as one of safeguarding customers and end users against serious injury resulting from misprinted dosage instructions, incorrectly coded labels, and deficiencies in quality assurance and control over the packaging process.

Rather than becoming frustrated by changing business conditions, senior managers chose to use time as an ally, attacking challenges they encountered one decision at a time. Once they aligned around their shared vision, management was better equipped to focus AccuPrint's business on a message that clearly defines what drives the company's value proposition to employees, customers and community.

Today, if you ask AccuPrint employees what they do for a living, they'll respond: “We safeguard America's health through quality assurance in pharmaceutical packaging.”

Oh really? Tell me more.


AccuPrint's O.R. Quotient represents more than just a casual response to polite questions. It is a carefully crafted positioning statement that is drawn from employees' complete alignment around the company's view of the future. Ask any AccuPrint employee what they or their company does, and the answer will always come in the same spirited and precisely worded answer — a powerful statement of purpose upon which employees will happily elaborate in response to the invitation they seek: Oh really? Tell me more.

So… what is your company's O.R. Quotient? Does it inspire prospective customers to immediately want to learn more about what stands behind your front door? Is it a reflection of your company's focus on integrated communications solutions? Does it position your capabilities to manage content and deliver across media platforms? Does it reflect your ability to lift response rates by way of personalization, customization and managed distribution? Does your O.R. Quotient encourage alliances, partnerships and relationships that advance customer solutions outside of the traditional ink-on-paper pressroom?

If you'd like more information on how to create an O.R. Quotient for your company, The Haven Group has developed a more extensive report from which content for this column was drawn. For a copy, simply send an e-mail request, including your name and address, to We'll be happy to tell you more.