Company Culture is Number One

As a CEO or business owner, you probably think about company culture a lot. I know I do in my role as Founder and CEO of KazSource, Inc. Culture is the number-one thing I think about, as it impacts literally everything else, from client relationships to the quality of our work, from innovation to marketing. The overall future of the business depends on this one aspect of company identity.

Pretty much everybody knows by now that culture is huge. However, not everybody knows how to foster a good company culture or even what company culture really is.

Culture is more than just having a cool dartboard in your office or a nice couch and lounge area. It’s not about having weird décor or a lot of group bonding exercises. No, culture is all about people. It’s how people get along. It’s the kinds of standards they uphold, and it’s the goals they share. When employees spend all day gossiping and give the stink-eye to anyone who suggests getting to work, that’s culture (though not a very good one, obviously). When people help and share ideas with each other because they believe in the company’s mission, that’s culture, too.

Employees and management together make a company’s culture what it is, but leadership has to set the pattern. If you’re not deliberately shaping your company’s culture, you’re probably shaping it accidentally.

If your company’s culture need an update, here are three areas to consider:

1. The Right Attitude

You want your employees to be excited about coming into work. Of course, not every day can be sunshine and rainbows, but work can be an incredible place—a place to develop new ideas and a place to make a difference for your customers and colleagues. You want your people to go to sleep on a Sunday evening excited to start their week at your office. A happy, engaged workforce will simply perform better.

The right attitude starts with you. Sure, you can offer incentives, you can throw office parties, you can hire the right people, but ask yourself, do you look forward to coming into work in the morning? If you don’t, do something about it.

2. The Right People

As alluded to above, you can shape culture to some extent by whom you hire—and whom you let go. For example, a few years ago, we hired someone who was highly skilled and who came to us recommended by two people I trust. This person really knew how to get the job done. Unfortunately, it soon became clear that this person didn’t get along with their co-workers. This individual demanded that everything be done their way. Now, this way wasn’t bad, but since the employee couldn’t or wouldn’t adapt to the other people around them, they weren’t a good fit for our culture. We decided this person should find employment elsewhere. Good person, good worker, but they should be running their own company.

3. Group Buy-in

If even one employee isn’t fully on board with your company’s goals, it will be tough to reach your full potential as a business. However, if everybody is all-in and excited, nothing can stop you.

So how do you get complete buy-in? If it’s really just one hold-out, you may be tempted to fire that person, but that could be a bad idea. Maybe they noticed a problem that you didn’t catch. If you ask the right questions, you may be able to address their concerns and improve your company in the process. Generally, the way to get people to take their role in your business seriously is for you to take them seriously by asking for their input.

What Company Culture Isn’t

While I often see culture undervalued, in a way I often see it overvalued too. For example, there are those who think that because they like to drink beer and watch the game with friends, everybody in the office should drink beer and watch the game together. That’s not how it works. Not everybody likes to do the same things to relax. And don’t even get me started about office yoga. If co-workers want to meet at a bar or a gym or a yoga studio on their own time, that’s great, but don’t put people in a position where they feel like they have to either play together or say no to their boss.

The Bottom Line

When you take a look around your office, what do you notice? Is everybody happy? Is everybody on board? Are there complainers or people trying to bring others down? If you hesitated on any of these questions, you’ve got some work to do if you hope to be a strong, successful team. I’d venture to say all companies have work to do with culture—even mine. All businesses are always works in progress.


Image of  Outdoor Yoga was taken by the Massachusetts Office of Travel & Tourism under the Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic license