I have been taking online classes this year from MasterClass. There are classes taught by actors, directors, historians and business leaders. I have made it through James Patterson, Malcolm Gladwell, David Baldacci, Doris Kerns Goodwin and Bob Iger. It is a great way to hear from some of the top practitioners of their craft in a very intimate and entertaining format. I highly recommend this streaming service. I am greatly looking forward to learning from this site over the rest of the year. Over this past week, I have been writing about lessons from these online classes which can inform your compliance program, the Chief Compliance Officer (CCO) and the compliance profession. Today I want to consider what your compliance brand is the age of the coronavirus health crisis and economic dislocation.

One of the concepts I heard from Patterson was about your brand. I had always thought of your brand as the image customers have of your business. It should be strategic and intentional. For a corporate compliance function, it might mean something along the lines of doing business ethically and in compliance. It could mean creating an effective compliance program that enhances business efficiency that drives greater profitability. It could mean driving an ethical culture to the very heart of your business.

However, Patterson discussed brand in a manner which was very different than the way I think about brand and branding. They said your brand is not an image but is about your relationship with your stakeholders. For an author, that means your readers. For Patterson, it means that you deliver what your readers expect and if you are going to go in a different direction, it is important to let your readers know that you are doing something different so that if you pick up a Baldacci or a Patterson, the book will be something other than the thriller or murder mystery you are expecting.

I thought about this concept for the Chief Compliance Officer (CCO) or compliance professional and the relationship you have with a wide variety of stakeholders all of whom are critical to being successful. If you begin to think of your personal brand as a compliance professional and your corporate compliance program as a relationship with these stakeholders, you begin to see things in a very different light. What are some of those relationships?

Obviously as a corporate compliance professional, you have a relationship with your customers; who are most generally described as the employees in your organization. Are you Dr. No From the Land of No? Or are you seen as a trusted partner who will not only protect the employees from running afoul of laws such as the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) but also help facilitate the business process so that it is more efficient and allows the company to do business more quickly and efficiently? Are you present to respond to inquiries? Does your corporate compliance function respond to your employee base in a timely manner? Do your due diligence processes seem to go on forever or are they done quickly and efficiently? In short are you present to prevent, detect and remediate from the compliance perspective?

What about the Board of Directors, the Audit and Compliance Committees on the Board? Obviously, you will make reports to these groups but what is your relationship with them? What do they expect from you and do you deliver it consistently with no surprises? The question might even be how do you develop a relationship with them? Billy Jacobson, when he was CCO at Weatherford International Ltd., explained that having a personal relationship was critical to his role. I asked him how he developed a personal relationship with someone who did not domicile in the city he worked. Jacobson said that when the Chairman was in town, he would try to get together for a cup of coffee or lunch so that he could visit in an informal atmosphere and they could develop a relationship. This relationship facilitated the quarterly meetings where he made formal presentations so there were no surprises. It also facilitated conversations between the Audit Committee meetings and formal Board presentations.

What about your relationships with other members of senior management such as the heads of Finance (CFO), Human Resources (HR), Internal Controls, Legal (GC), Data Security and Information (CIO)? For Russ Berland, CCO at Aventiv Technologies, LLC, the key was pizza. Berland said that he bought lots of pizza for information lunch meetings or afterhours and weekend working sessions he put in with others in senior leadership. Berland found this was a way to thank these folks in way they not only appreciated but is rarely used in the corporate world. Yet, Berland is the first to make clear that a CCO must deliver on corporate compliance to establish and maintain a relationship with those at the senior management level.

What is your rapport with the business relationships your company has in Operations and Supply Chain? Have you traveled to meet your Top Ten commercial sales agents globally? Do you know your organization’s internal Joint Venture (JV) partners? Have you traveled to their locations to personally provide input on compliance training? If not, would they even know how to get in touch with you?

Finally, as a compliance professional, what is your relationship to the international compliance community; are you giving of your time and talents to have a relationship with the international community of compliance practitioners? Do you attend compliance conferences? Do you participate, through speaking or writing, with one of the compliance professional organizations? If you are a senior compliance professional, are you mentoring younger compliance professionals?

While there are other groups you may well have a relationship with as a compliance professional, looking at this from the perspective of Patterson you begin to see the corporate compliance brand and your own personal brand in a very different light. It is one which I think can help you to be both more effective as a compliance professional and lead to more professional opportunities for you as well. In this time of coronavirus and economic dislocation, I would submit your compliance brand is even more important.

This publication contains general information only and is based on the experiences and research of the author. The author is not, by means of this publication, rendering business, legal advice, or other professional advice or services. This publication is not a substitute for such legal advice or services, nor should it be used as a basis for any decision or action that may affect your business. Before making any decision or taking any action that may affect your business, you should consult a qualified legal advisor. The author, his affiliates, and related entities shall not be responsible for any loss sustained by any person or entity that relies on this publication. The Author gives his permission to link, post, distribute, or reference this article for any lawful purpose, provided attribution is made to the author. The author can be reached at tfox@tfoxlaw.com.

© Thomas R. Fox, 2020