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By Michael Angier


Is Your Company The Real McCoy?

Editor's Note: Authenticity is Pillar Number One of the World Class Principles. This article is an excerpt from Michael Angier's forthcoming book: "The Ten Pillars of a World Class Business." Get SuccessNet's free report of the same name by sending an email to

One of my favorite Gary Larson cartoons is the one with the cardboard cutouts of a hillbilly family on the lawn of their mountain shack. The caption reads: The Fake McCoys.

The term "Real McCoy" most likely comes from a railway invention by Elijah McCoy that automatically dripped oil to critical parts of the train instead of having to stop and let the oilman do it manually.

Even though Elijah applied for and was granted a US Patent, there were many imitators. But none of them were as good as the "Real McCoy".

How about you and your company? Are you the Real McCoy?

Or are you trying to be something you're not? Are you trying to imitate your competition instead of being yourself?

I see far too many small companies trying to look like big companies. I see big companies doing their best to come across as a small-town company. There are old enterprises attempting to look fresh and new, while brand new ones are trying to appear well established.

All of these efforts burn up time, energy and resources. They rarely work well—if they work at all.

People like to do business with people they like. And they like people who are like themselves. They don't really do business with a company—they do business with the people IN that company.

Buyers today are savvy. They have more choices than ever before. And they can tell—at least at some level—whether or not the company and the people in it are congruent. They seek out, resonate with and tend to be loyal to companies that are authentic.

It's not only a good thing to do, it's good business.

Your uniqueness and the things you're best at doing are all part of your differentiating position. It's who you are—your identity. It's what people can relate to. If there's anything false, made up or covered over, your prospects will sense it. And they won't even be able to tell you why they didn't buy.

As Emerson said so eloquently, "Who you are speaks so loudly, I can't hear what you say."

The company that knows who they are, knows what they're really good at and communicates that effectively—without trying to be all things to all people—is usually way ahead of the pack.

Is it easy? No, I don't think so. But it IS easier than trying to be something you're not.

This principle—authenticity—is the most challenging and yet perhaps the simplest of all the 10 Pillars. Much like your core values, your authentic self isn't something to create but rather something to discover.

Be who you are—no one else is better qualified.

Most people—and most organizations—have never really thought about this. It starts with realizing that this process is worthy of some introspection.

And it requires that we answer some tough questions.

Who are we? Who are we being? How do we come across? What do we stand for? What are our core values? This goes far beyond our mission and our vision. It may be based on mission/vision, but it's more about the culture of our organization and how that culture is showing up in our business dealings.

And this process is never complete. It demands that we get real. If we don't, we should prepare to become real irrelevant.

If we're diligent to the task, and honest and true to ourselves and those we serve, we can have a company that everyone will know as the Real McCoy.

A Related Articles

Authenticity and Originality
We live in a less-than authentic world. Maybe that's why authenticity and originality stand out so easily.

Top Ten Reasons to Live a Life of Integrity
Why is a life of integrity the exception rather than the rule? Some practical and worthwhile reasons for living an impeccable life.


"Be who you is. Because if you ain't who you is, then you is who you ain't"
—Nido Quiben


“There is a time in every man’s education when he arrives at the conviction that envy is ignorance; that imitation is suicide; that he must take himself for the better, for worse, as his portion; that though the wide universe is full of good, no kernel of nourishing corn can come to him but through his toil bestowed on that plot of ground which is given him to till. The power which resides in him is new in nature, and none but he knows what that is which he can do, nor does he know until he has tried.”
—Ralph Waldo Emerson


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Last Updated 02/21/2004