It’s all too easy for companies to dismiss direct hits on their
reputations with the blithe reassurance that a good reputation is a nice
thing to have but not directly linked to performance. It is only when
the ship starts to take on water that the damage becomes harder to
As its parent Trafalgar House sinks slowly into the welcoming embrace of
Kvaerner, Cunard’s attempts to brush off the effects of its ill-fated
QEII ‘building site cruise’ to New York last year look more like a case
of re-arranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.
There are other factors which have precipitated the company’s fall into
foreign hands. But it would take a supreme effort of arrogance not to
admit that the episode damaged the company.
The question is how many other companies have to be taken over, or go
under, and how many chief executives have to walk the plank before the
message sinks in?
Reputation matters. It affects the bottom line, sometimes in the most
horribly dramatic way. And the ultimate responsibility for reputation
lies not with some below decks lackey, but with the captain of the ship.
Any chairman or CEO who ignores this responsibility is unfit for command
and deserves to be set adrift on the high seas before he takes the ship
down with him.