The more our company grows, the more I realize how crucial culture is to our success. We are in a service business. As we grow, I personally interact with fewer and fewer of our clients on a regular basis. So, how do I ensure that the people who do interact with our clients treat them as I would have treated them? The answer is “culture.”
Leaders Drive Culture. Culture is set by expectations and training, but mostly it is set by example and rewards. Company leaders, especially the CEO, set culture. What do they celebrate? What do they value? What do they punish? How do they treat clients, vendors and employees? What do they preach? What are their actions (which speak louder than words)? Finally, do they have a method for hiring people who not only fit the culture but can promote it? Company leaders set the culture. So, they must be able to articulate it and consciously promote it every day.
Culture Drives People. Culture is crucial. More than rules, training or speeches, culture provides the guardrails for accepted and desired behavior in an organization. Businesses are small societies that develop their own mores and expectations. These mores and expectations become understood and ingrained in the members of this micro-society (i.e., employees). Their actions reflect the culture of their shared society. Thus, the established culture (mores and expectations) drives their behavior.
People Drive Business. We are a service business that happens to be in the technology space. Our clients depend on our people to be excellent at what they do and to treat everyone with the respect and professionalism they deserve. Without people a business cannot exist. Without people doing the right things, a business dies. Without culture, people don’t know how to act or make decisions, especially when the “handbook” doesn’t apply. Simply, culture gives employees context for acting.
Sometimes we take culture for granted. A very small business derives culture by osmosis from its founder. A larger business must take culture seriously. As a business grows, leaders must be intentional about developing and maintaining a culture that gives all employees the context they need to make the right decisions that promote the business and project the brand. Otherwise, inconsistency and individual personality will rule and the business will flounder.