Create Your Company Culture Or Else!

Without thinking too hard, answer these questions:

  • Where do you love to shop (physical)?
  • Where do you love to shop (online)?
  • Where do you love to dine out?
  • What company gives the best service?
  • What is your favorite hotel chain?
  • When it comes to a business, where do you feel most welcome?
  • What is your favorite electronic gadget?
  • For what company would you LOVE to work?

I am going to wager that the answers to the questions above have one thing in common: The company culture connected to each of your responses is well thought out and communicated to the employees.

In a recent article in the Wall Street Journal, the beleaguered and fairly recently named CEO of General Motors Company, Mary Barra, surprised me with a statement about company culture.

“I hate the word culture,” Barra is quoted. “Culture is really just how we behave.”

To be fair, Barra has been through one heck of a time as CEO. No matter how hard she has tried, GM has been in the headlines for mistakes of the past. Now she wants GM to become “the world’s most valued automotive company” according to the WSJ.

Ms. Barra wants customer satisfaction, quality and financial results to be at the forefront of GM’s future. I just question how you get there without formulated and executing on company culture that all employees understand and embrace?

A Happiness Culture

Walt Disney World in Orlando is one of my favorite places to vacation. The parks are clean and every day feels like the employees (the cast) are making it special just for my family and me.

Disney likes to call it “The Happiest Placed on Earth”.  My friend Lee Cockerell, the former Executive Vice President of Operations for the Walt Disney World® Resort, says when recollecting what he would say to his team about the culture, “It is the happiest place, or else!”

What Lee is stressing is that creating that happy environment for guests is the culture. And if you can’t live the culture day in and day out, move on.

Creating a Culture

If someone were to ask about the culture where you work and/or lead, could you explain it? Does a clearly communicated culture exist?

Hubspot, a Cambridge, MA based software company specializing in inbound marketing, has worked hard to develop a culture in its short eight year company life. You can view the Hubspot culture slide deck titled The HubSpot Culture Code: Creating a Company We Love here:

It is their first culture point that makes great sense. Hubspot says, “Culture is to recruiting as product is to marketing.” It just takes a few interactions with Hubspot employees to sense that they work to painstakingly find the right people to work in their culture. (Full disclosure: After a few years of watching and working with Hubspot, I am proud to say my daughter, MK Getler, is a part of the Hubspot team.)

Once you view the Hubspot culture slide deck, you should be inspired to give your own company culture definition. If you are not in charge of the entire company, how about just your area?

You don’t have to be a giant Disney-like company to have a culture either. A single retail store or professional office can define its culture. Once the culture is in place, it can drive how you hire, how you work with customers and how you spend your time creating new products.

The Zappos Culture Book

Tony Hsieh (pronounce SHAY), CEO of online retailer Zappos.com, developed the company happiness culture early on during the company start-up phase.

“If you get the culture right, everything else will follow naturally,” Hsieh states. Based on their iconic customer satisfaction and success, Hsieh’s statement should be taken to heart.

Zappos publishes a yearly culture book that is created with contributions from employees, partners and customers. The book better defines the culture from the front-line and then throughout Zappos.

You can view the book here:

Create a Culture Today

If GM wants to be a première car company valued worldwide, then its CEO needs to recognize the value of creating and communicating a company culture.

The same goes for your business or organization. Start by creating a culture today. The guiding principles behind your culture are not set in stone. Be ready to adjust them to the changing market. You cannot adjust and change what does not exist.

Several years back, I asked a senior manager of a company I had joined about the company culture. His response was dismissive and he stated that they did not believe in a company culture. It did not take long to see that the company was highly dysfunctional and poorly run. A little believe in culture would have gone a long way. At the very least, everyone would be rowing the boat in the same direction.

Add immediate value to your company or organization by thinking through its culture.

Question: What is most important to include in a company’s culture? Comment below.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

  • Trust. Foster a sense of trust in an organization and people can move forward. Without this simple “feeling” in place, everyone is looking behind or around in order to keep safe. Trust builds bonds, creates an environment of innovation, moves teams to act with confidence and certainty.