What Should Your Culture Be?

Author’s note: this is part of a long blog series on corporate culture.  Feel free to look back on previous blogs to explore previous material on evaluating, changing and establishing your corporate culture within the business context.

To this point you have acknowledged that:

  • Knowing your business’s culture is important.
  • You have strategically asked your business’s affiliates (banker, lawyer, accountant, etc.) to help you find out what the outside world thinks your reputation or your business’s culture is.
  • You have also asked others such as ex-employees, consultants and clients to also provide input.
  • From this feedback, you have a list of positive and negative aspects of your reputation or culture.
  • You have celebrated the good and have divided the bad to a manageable list of traits you can tackle.

The question at this point is: what do you want your corporate culture to be?

Simply celebrating good reputations and attacking bad reputations are not enough.  Corporate culture in any business started as simply the culture that came from the original business’s entrepreneurs.  It was an extension of their personalities.  Maybe you have updated your logo and letterhead since, but those do little to change your culture.  And if you’re like my business, the original guys are long gone but the culture they created is still here.  So, what do you want to be when your grow up?  This is your chance to really make a difference in your industry, your business, and in the lives of all your employees.

This discussion can take on a life of its own, so I suggest you work diligently to keep it simple and manageable.  I’d start with the work environment, this is what keeps your employees engaged and what attracts new employees.

  • Think about your dress code, music, lunch hours, vacation policy, social functions; anything that your workforce of today wants and what will keep you competitive tomorrow.
  • Think about your client interactions; your parking policy, what your invoices and contracts look like, who communicates and how you communicate, how is the phone answered (if at all), how do you manage return calls, etc. This is your window to the world and how your culture is communicated to others.
  • Lastly, think about your imprint on our world: do you have a social cause, do you allow and promote volunteerism, have you adopted a park, a family, or not-for-profit, do you make your time and space available for community needs to interact with your employees, etc.

I believe you will find the most important responses to your request for feedback on your reputation are the responses that are missing.  What are you not doing that you should be doing to be a great employer?  What are the elements of your culture that you don’t have, that if you did have you would proudly promote them?  More importantly, what are the cultures that you as a company should have that your employees would promote?

While there is professional help available for this task, I think the answers are available internally.  Just ask you staff and your best customers.  Look at your community and see what you can do to make it a better community.

When thinking of your new culture, remember Isaiah 1:17:

“learn to do good;

seek justice,

correct oppression;

bring justice to the fatherless,

plead the widow’s cause.”

A culture built around this verse would have a significant impact on your employees and their families, on the community where your business is located, and would set an example for the rest of the companies in your industry.  Now that would make a difference.

There is no rigid formula for determining what your corporate culture should be. A culture will evolve in your workplace and it is best if you as owner and manager guide it.