The success of your company relies on so much more than profits. There are certain immeasurable factors that may not immediately prove their ROI, but are essential for the longevity of your business. One such factor is company culture. Establishing company culture begins from the top down. As a leader, it is your responsibility to set a positive tone for your business and embody that culture every single time you walk in the door.
To better understand the importance of company culture, we interviewed three TAB executives and collected their thoughts about how and why it’s so important to establish a company culture and then translate that vision to your employees, customers, community, and prospective hires.
What is Company Culture?
According to Andrew Hartley, Director of The Alternative Board (Bradford West), “Company culture is intangible and complex. It’s difficult to pin down, because there’s no app or spreadsheet that can grasp your corporate culture.”
So how do they define it?
“Company culture is not just your personal values and the values of those around you at work,” says Hartley. “It’s how those values interact with the challenges and experience of your market, the values and pressures added by your customers and suppliers and other stakeholders. This highly complex mix is your company’s culture.”
TAB Member Casey Lakey, Owner / General Manager at Trainer's Club adds, “Company culture is the translation of the business owner’s vision and values.” According to Lakey, this begins with every staff member, but is equally important for managers and even business partners.
“Your core values are manifested in how your people behave, this is your culture,” says The Alternative Board (North San Antonio & TX Hill Country) President Don Maranca. “Core values mean nothing unless your culture or behavior is consistent with them.”
Why is company culture so important?
Hartley ties company culture to your overarching business strategy. It can either be a “loud promoter” of your vision or a “silent killer.”
“When your culture and goals are not aligned, all of your efforts will feel like hard work and progress will become nearly impossible,” says Hartley. “When you get it right, everything flies and you exceed your own expectations. Effective company culture indirectly leads to results that everyone on your team and even in your business’s community will want to celebrate and be part of.
Maranca agrees that company culture impacts how you do business. “Company culture creates an expectation with your employees and customers.”
Why is it so important to translate your company culture to prospective customers? To prospective employees? To your local community?
To answer this question, Hartley quotes leadership author Simon Sinek, “Customers don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.”
“Your culture reflects who you really are and why you are there. If this fits with customers they will be your loyal followers and promoters,” says Hartley, “Without this connection, you are merely transacting and will have to work hard for every deal.”
Lakey adds that company culture increases your chances of building a referral marketing network, which is the most cost effective way to spread word of your business. “If customers recognize and appreciate the culture of your company, they are more willing to return and share their experiences with other potential customers.”
According to Hartley, the same goes for employees, suppliers and the overarching community. Here, he cites The Leadership Challenge authors Jim Kouzes and Barry Posner, “If you align at a cultural level, you will earn the extra 20% of ‘discretionary’ effort that makes the best, the best.”
Lakey agrees with Hartley’s sentiment. “Employees that follow a positive company culture are better employees, because they understand their role and are more likely to promote the business when interacting with customers and potential hires.”
As for the local community, Lakey believes “A business becomes a part of its community, when the community recognizes the culture and values the company promotes.”
What are some effective ways of marketing your company culture?
“You (the leader) are the best way to market your company culture,” says Maranca. “Achieve this by clearly communicating your core values and living them out intentionally in every interaction related to your business.”
“Cultural alignment can be one of your biggest assets,” adds Hartley. “It should influence the style, choice of channels, branding and tone of voice of your communications. All marketing needs to respect the central value of your business.”
Lakey recommends creating a series of keywords that emphasize your business’s company culture and core values and using them across all internal and external communications. For example, Lakeys’ terminology generally revolves around their mission statement: “Our mission is to create a sense of community for our members, employees and business partners.”
Company culture may be intangible, but it’s definitely not inconsequential. Having a well-defined culture, that is translated from the top down, can streamline all of your business’s processes and interactions.
If all of the elements of your business model are in place, but something still seems to be lacking, you may want to take a moment to reflect on your company’s culture. Are your employees happy? Are your customers? Are you? Asking these simple questions can reveal a lot about your business. If you’re having trouble establishing a positive company culture, get in touch with a local TAB board and see how a team of peer advisors can help you take your business to the next level.