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The 4 Keys Of Remarkable Company Culture

April 2016

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Culture.

It’s a buzzword being thrown around by business leaders quite a bit right now.

And while everyone is talking about it, nobody seems to know what it really is. Ever notice how some teams seem to function better than others no matter who is on the team?

I’ve been paying attention to culture more and more, and I have come to believe that it is the most important factor in a company’s productivity, talent acquisition and retention, and even its viability. In a world where the war for talent is scaling up on a daily basis, building a healthy company culture can be the difference between getting by and getting ahead.

I’ve studied thousands of teams and company cultures and have noticed some common denominators among the best. Take note of these and develop them within your company. The dividends will be bigger than you think.

1. Purpose

Where there is no vision, the people perish. That’s what the scriptures say, and it couldn’t be more true in today’s business world. The companies that are attracting and keeping the best talent are crystal clear on the “why” behind the “what” of their business. They are determined to do more than merely build a profit/loss sheet. Hubspot, a marketing company that has grown to over $180 million in annual revenue in less than a decade, doesn’t sell itself as building a fast-growing company or a huge profit center. It attracts employees who want to be a part of a movement, a movement that is creating more friendly and human marketing. Having spent a fair amount of time with their team, I’ve seen the enormous talent they have attracted, and scores of sought-after millennials that have joined their ranks because of a desire to be a part of something that is creating a change in the world.

 

2. Agility

One of the key components of any great company culture, particularly newer ones, is the ability to turn on a dime. The start of Virgin Airlines has become a legendary case study in this. Richard Branson was stuck in Puerto Rico and trying to get to the Virgin Islands. There weren’t enough passengers to warrant the flight, so the airline cancelled his trip. Frustrated, he called around and chartered a plane (that he couldn’t afford at the time). He borrowed a blackboard at the airport, wrote “Virgin Airlines: One Way Ticket to BVI $39,” and carried the sign around in front of the folks whose flight had been cancelled. Branson now jokes that he sold out his very first flight. Not long after, he founded an airline that would be ridiculously committed to pleasing customers. Since then, Virgin Airlines has been known for hiring people who can make quick decisions and demonstrate agility. In an era when many of the larger airlines are tanking, Virgin has become a model of agility leading to profitability.

Bodetree, a company that helps small businesses manage their finances, has also grown due to their agility. They realized that there was a need to equip banking institutions to train small businesses on managing their books.

When I asked the founder Chris Myers about how he discovered the need to pivot Bodetree’s services, he said, “Admittedly, it took us longer than it should have to recognize the challenges that we faced. We were so far down the road in terms of integration and partnerships with companies like Intuit that it was exceedingly scary and painful to pivot. However, once we made the jump and began to serve a tangible need in a much broader market, everything changed.” When I asked his advice on how entrepreneurs can know it’s time to shift, he said, “My advice to entrepreneurs facing a similar challenge today is to rip off that band-aid. Pivoting is scary, but dragging the process out only makes it worse.”

3. Empowered Employees

Nordstrom is well known for their impeccable customer service. It is a huge part of their business culture. One of the main reasons for their success is how much authority and responsibility they give their employees. Decisions are pushed down to the lowest possible level, and that message is delivered clearly from day one of employment. Their employee handbook famously reads,

“Our One Rule: Use good judgment in all situations. Please feel free to ask your department manager, store manager, or Human Resources any questions at any time.”

It’s no coincidence that Nordstrom is consistently rated as a “best place to work.” When employees are given true authority and responsibility, it not only allows instant customer satisfaction, but it also breeds a company culture that lowers staff churn and increases loyalty among team members.

4. Living Values

Did you know that “ritzy” wasn’t a word until Ritz-Carlton came along? Their brand and culture is so strong that their company name is now an adjective in our dictionary.

The secret to building that culture lies in daily “culture pushes” throughout the company. Every shift of every day at every Ritz-Carlton property begins with a 15 minute standing meeting called “The Daily Lineup.” At each meeting, on a rotating basis, employees share how they have seen one of the Ritz-Carlton “gold standards” (i.e. company values) lived out recently at the company. From sous chefs to CEOs to managers to custodial staff, everyone has the meeting every day, and one of their core values is driven home.

Writing down your company’s cultural values is a step in the right direction, but a daily push of those values brings them to life and takes your company culture (and productivity) to a whole new level. It’s made a huge difference on my team. What could you be doing to drive your values through your company more consistently?

Peter Drucker is attributed with saying “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.” The longer I have been an entrepreneur, the more I agree. And as our company hits its best stride ever with culture, we are seeing productivity and effectiveness like never before.


 

This article was written by William Vanderbloemen from Forbes. This reprint is supplied by BNY Mellon under license from NewsCred, Inc.  

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