Culture Makes a Great Company

I have a strong opinion about what makes a great company. Personally, I believe it’s an exceptional business culture. I’ve also come to the conclusion that great companies are where the best people want to work and where most customers go to buy what they need or want. Aside from my own business experiences, my personal viewpoints are formed, in part, from my exposure to the inner workings of some amazing cultures that we’ve served. To say the least, I’ve learned a lot about the dynamics of creating an exceptional business culture, and I try to do my part to contribute whenever possible.

The most tangible parts of a business culture are usually pretty manageable if they’re clearly defined and if a little bit of discipline is involved. For example, maintaining a clean and organized work environment is a very tangible aspect that can help ensure operational efficiency and productivity. It can go a long way towards creating a sense of mutual team respect, too. Safety is another tangible element that’s a big deal for attracting and retaining good people who possess strong self-worth. A company with modern facilities and tools can help to create a competitive spirit and generally positive feelings from the people who work there. While these types of tangible pieces and parts matter, they are secondary to the intangible elements that make up a culture.

The more difficult to describe and intangible aspects of a business culture center around people who make up a business. From top executives to the entry-level employee, all people in an organization create and affect the culture. The influence of people’s attitudes and behaviors, as well as their interactions with each other, directly impacts how a company culture either flourishes or flounders.

It’s no surprise that creating an exceptional business culture starts with the leadership of a company. The leadership philosophy, attitude, and behavior set the theme and creates a clear example of the tone and tenor in the workplace. Business leaders that convey a clear purpose of serving their customers and caring for the well being of their team will have staff who works in harmony and goes the extra mile as a matter of normal behavior. 

On the other hand, leaders with self-serving goals shouldn’t expect to have many enthusiastic team members who go above and beyond expectations with their job performance. Similarly, leaders that have a “my way or the highway” philosophy about their business are probably going to experience a certain level of isolation and perhaps a false sense of control. They may believe they are dictating the culture of their company when in reality a discreet subculture of disgruntled team members is likely developing. These subcultures damage morale and become unintentionally subversive to the company’s purpose.  

Any good business leader can help set the stage for an exceptional culture to emerge simply by genuinely being a good person. It is far more beneficial to a cultural foundation if a leader is viewed as someone with answers and solutions as opposed to someone who is perceived as adding to the inevitable problems of business operations. Being a good listener and respecting everyone for their ideas goes a long way to fostering a happy and healthy culture. It’s fine to not see eye to eye with someone else’s ideas but simply hearing what they have to offer builds bonds and mutually respectful relationships. 

Leaders that choose to have a sincere interest in the lives and careers of everyone on their team help them to feel like they belong to something special. When people feel like someone’s got their back, there’s a good chance they’ll reciprocate when it’s needed. Helping people grow professionally, and even personally, by offering encouragement and support will pay dividends to every stakeholder. 

In the professional environment, it’s okay for a leader to be firm, but it always pays to be fair. Leaders that are willing to explain themselves when giving assignments, as if they’re selling the value and benefits of the project instead of just dictating orders, usually get a much deeper buy-in from their team. Leaders can set the right example by following the established chain of command and communication protocols which they probably set up themselves. Anyone in a leadership position must separate their personal problems or external noise from the rest of the team. It’s human behavior to vent our problems, but a leader needs to realize they can unsettle the team by doing so.

Recruiting the right people for every business is critical. This is easier said than done concerning a business culture.  With a traditional hiring process, there’s an effort to match the qualifications of an applicant with the skills required for a particular job. While this is generally a structured process, identifying people that are a fit for a business culture is quite subjective. There is no science or manual on how to identify a good cultural fit.  It’s more about letting intuition be a guide. A person who has all the right skills but is incompatible with the culture will cause friction and diminish the joy of a positive environment. Bringing people on board who blend with the existing team will add positive energy that will keep an exceptional culture flowing in the right direction. 

Compensating the entire team fairly and adequately makes a huge difference in a business’ culture. Of course, monetary compensation is important to most team members, but it doesn’t have to be an extreme burden on a business. Paying a fair market wage can be satisfactory for most people, but underpaying will erode their commitment to a business. 

There are other valuable compensation ideas to consider as well. In today’s business environment, having some time flexibility is highly valued by team members. Receiving recognition, compliments, and occasional thanks also goes a long way towards happiness in the workplace. Other little things that can make a difference include things like taking the team to lunch or giving them a small token of appreciation. Good deeds will have people working with a smile.

Creating an atmosphere of open communication is key. Sharing information about the state of the business regularly gets people feeling connected with the company. If people are genuinely vested in a business culture, they will want to know what’s going on. After all, their work and careers are a major part of their lives. Having real information will minimize speculation and rumors, which are killers for any business culture. There should be no hesitation to share both the good and the bad news about a company. The good is inspiring, as everyone wants to be on a winning team. The bad will usually rally the team to figure out what’s wrong and get things back on track. There are very few secrets in an exceptional business culture.

Encouraging entrepreneurship at every position in an organization is a powerful way to build a unified culture. By this, I mean letting people own their roles and responsibilities in the organization. If they know what’s expected of them, good people will generally take pride and do their very best. Encouraging entrepreneurship is also a means of showing trust in people. Trust requires a true belief in the people surrounding a business and avoiding any type of micromanagement. Putting trust in people is a very sincere show of respect, and when they feel respected they won’t let their fellow team members or the company down.

Business cultures are always evolving and require constant course corrections. Striving to make things better is the sign of a strong organization with great leadership and people. Bad behavior should be removed as anything that is negative or creates friction in a culture can do significant damage. If negative influences persist, the team can lose focus or good people may leave. The team may also lose respect for the leadership that allows bad behavior to thrive. Removing people with talent can be a difficult choice, but if an exceptional business culture is truly a priority, it should help make that type of decision easier.

Any business needs to have genuine core values and employ only people that believe in them. Many companies put nice looking plaques on the wall with smooth sounding words about missions and values, but little depth or reality. That’s the same as all talk and no action.  Creating values based on everyone’s input and defining the common ideals is what brings a particular group together.  Keep values at the forefront by talking about them often. Let actions reflect what's truly meaningful to everyone in an organization.

The workplace has changed. For many, smaller entrepreneurial business environments are becoming a more attractive place of employment over a large corporation. People want more than just earning a paycheck these days. They want their workplace to be challenging, rewarding, happy, and they want to be a contributing factor. Arrogant, intimidating, and threatening cultures are outdated. In those outdated type cultures, team members are usually spending lots of time towards finding a better place to spend their work life.

Our team always encourages business leaders of any size or type company to strive for an exceptional business culture and prioritize achieving it as a strategic goal. It takes a deliberate effort to create a thriving culture and it’s rewarding to see the benefits and results when the magic happens.

Jeff BadovickComment