WHAT IS CULTURE?
There is an ever-growing focus on culture — it was even Merriam Webster’s most popular word of 2014. It is rooted in the Latin “colere”, a horticultural word that, at its core, means to cultivate, to tend, and to guard. But what is it? Some say it’s what happens when you’re not looking; others suggest that it’s the force that eats strategy for breakfast. But just like its ambiguity of meaning, so it is often lost in translation.
In the context of business, it is often dismissed, & greater focus is allocated to operations or product. However, in order to build a high revenue- high profit business, you need to have the best people to perform at their best, and in order to achieve this, you need to attract, retain and engage the modern (often millennial) workforce. The same applies to clients. What is it that differentiates your business from competitors? What attracts the internal team and external clients? The answer is culture. Without culture, all that remains is the product/service of the company.
Culture is what binds the members of the company together. It may arise from the founder, but every employee is a link in the chain — which is why Luke Johnson, The Times columnist writes: “every business builder must possess the right emotional attitude — a contagious feeling that joining your venture will prove fun and financially rewarding.”
Culture permeates the values, the rituals, the events, the articles, attitudes, standards, and beliefs that characterise the goals of the organisation. As companies expand and grow, culture is at greater risk of becoming diluted. Establishing a strong & positive culture requires the CEO to have a sharp and consistent vision and an understanding of how he/she wants people internally and externally to view and experience the company.
WHERE DO PEOPLE GO WRONG? — THE SPECTRUM
Some people think it takes the installation of a ping pong table, while others think that engraving nebulous values into marble (such as collaboration, innovation, leadership) & framing it at the entrance of their office will do the trick. It won’t. These are just superficial changes to the climate. Culture is slower to build and more pervasive. The culture of an organisation is something that is sensed — from the email signature to the ways in which people behave and enthuse about their place of work.
HOW TO IMPLEMENT CULTURE
Working in the FinTech and tech sector we see a wide range of businesses, from start-ups to legacy banks.
At CRUXY we often craft the strategic positioning for a company, create its DNA, and differentiate it in the competitive market. And, often an output of that is making sure it runs through the business like the writing in a stick of rock. One of the ways to do this is create a strong internal culture: as is often recognised, strategy and culture are inextricably linked.
It starts with having strong individual values. These are the anchor. They can’t just be plucked out of thin air but must tie in with the strategy of the firm and its focus, and they must honour the ways in which the company excels.
The next stage is living the values in every aspect of the business. For example, if a company claims it is different, quirky, and non-corporate, leaving the value in a sentence plastered on the wall will have zero effect on the work force. Many people see values as something that must be lived formally (i.e. changing the reward system) but how they are effected is of greater importance. The values must create a reason for the employee to be in the company other than simply to receive a pay cheque: for example, Zappos forces every hire to go though the call centre training for 4 weeks then offers him or her $2,000 to quit the company. This weeds out people who are just there to collect a pay cheque. A strong culture recognises the human involvement in creating a successful business. Without a culture, the company will ultimately just be left with the product/service and in this increasingly competitive and fast-paced world, is that really enough?
QUESTIONS TO ASK YOURSELVES
- What differentiates your company from your competitors?
- What is the hook that keeps people at your company? Why do people leave?
- Are the beliefs of the CEO aligned with those of the rest of the company?
- What is it that will draw a client to you rather than a competitor?