Culture: Living Your Brand

Jan bio photo
Jan Muhleman
June 25, 2019
June 25, 2019

Your culture is your brand

We have always said that a brand was more than an identity—it is who you are, what you do, why you do it and how you are better or different from your competitors. It is how you look speak and act. At this year’s IFA Leadership Conference, Keynote Speaker Nick Friedman, president of College Hunks Hauling Junk, spoke on “World Class Culture: It’s Not What’s On the Walls, It’s What’s In The Halls.” He described being intentional about Purpose, Values, Vision, Mission and Brand Promise; that the Vision is a by-product of living their purpose; and that Core Values should be shared by all, not just with all.

Despite the title of his talk, Nick shared that they do have photos on the walls illustrating the “Hunk’s Way,” a visual example of sharing stories that illustrate their value of a Fun, Enthusiastic Team. They review their values and mission daily, weekly, monthly and quarterly in their meetings. They set standards and measure performance following the belief of “no margin, no mission.” And they hold each other accountable for living the brand, using a football analogy of “every day is game day.”

Culture definition

The Cambridge English Dictionary states that culture is “the way of life, especially the general customs and beliefs, of a particular group of people at a particular time.” The decentralized nature of a franchise system makes it critically important to have a defined culture. The mission, vision, values and purpose are the cultural currency of the organization. They help attract employees and franchisees and motivate them to follow standards and ensure delivery of a consistent customer experience.

The Culture Code bookDaniel Coyle in “The Culture Code” describes a number of strategies to create a strong culture with a bias for action that are reflected in Nick Friedman’s story. They include identifying and ranking your priorities and then overcommunicating them, embracing the use of catchphrases, using artifacts and measuring what really matters.




When we spoke after his presentation, Friedman acknowledged that his company uses EOS, Entrepreneurial Operating System. EOS is being adopted by a number of successful businesses, due in part to the discipline of clearly identifying your mission, vision, values, top priorities and most important initiatives to achieve them. The prescribed rhythm of weekly, monthly, quarterly meetings to review progress against “Rocks” (important goals) and identify issues helps ensure focus on priorities and align the organization around them. It is all about measuring what really matters.

College Hunks is also a good example when it comes to using catchphrases and artifacts. Their photos on the wall, brand character and catchy expressions communicate expectations of behavior that support the fun culture they want to create and the above and beyond experience they deliver to the customer. Even their name has been turned into an acronym (artifact) to telegraph who they are and what you should expect to get if you hire them.

What makes us true H.U.N.K.S.? Honest. Uniformed. Nice. Knowledgable. Service

So how do you codify and communicate your brand culture? It is part of defining your brand from the start. But, as Coyle shares in The Culture Code, it is something that is both constantly communicated and continuously amplified through new expressions and examples. We will talk more about this in a future blog post.