“Culture eats strategy for breakfast.”
This quote, by Peter Drucker, the father of corporate management, summarizes the importance of your company culture. It’s the foundation on which everything else rests. Without a well-defined culture, your efforts to grow your business are going to be a struggle. Culture is what unites your team and motivates each person to work toward the goals you’ve set. Culture provides a roadmap for how we get things done.
Often attributed to Silicon Valley, culture has been caricatured as bean bag chairs, foosball tables in the breakroom, and free snacks. But culture is bigger and more important than the “perks” of working for a tech startup.
The Unseen Fabric that Shapes Your Business
Culture is the unseen fabric that shapes your business. It can move you forward or keep you stuck. Culture consists of the values, the processes, the reputation, the focus of your organization.
Recently, I attended two meetings involving non-profit organizations that are working out a synergistic relationship. Each sees value in working together. They’re working through the financial relationship, as one will be hosting the other in their space. Obviously, rent needs to be paid, but how do you account for the value brought by both parties in the relationship?
In the course of these discussions, I realized that the second organization is stuck in small thinking. They think of themselves as a “small non-profit”, rather than a growing non-profit with valuable content that can benefit many if they open up their thinking. The organization that will be hosting them held that same small thinking mindset for many years. This shaped the culture of the organization and limited their ability to step into their potential. Only through intentional work on defining and developing a culture of thinking bigger have they been able to overcome the fixed mindset of being a startup 25 years after they started.
Sorry, a 25-year-old start-up is a complete oxymoron. As a leader in this organization, I saw the constraints we struggled with for years because of our inability to move past a startup mindset.
As I sat on the Zoom call listening to the discussion of the larger organization, I realized that we have the opportunity to share the learnings we’ve had with this non-profit with so much potential. It was a huge a-ha for me to see that we’ve come so far and now can pay it forward to another organization as they break out of scarcity and small thinking.
Believing you are a start-up after 25 years is a good example of unintended cultural limitations. The belief that we can’t come up with the money, that we have to do everything ourselves, that we can’t trust anyone outside the organization stymied growth for many years. We were limited by our scarcity mindset. It took new leadership to change this mindset and free up the organization for what it’s capable of.
The new leadership developed a team of leaders to name the vision, mission, and values of the organization. They spent time in strategic planning that aligned with the culture we sought to create. We created a vision narrative that spelled out what our culture would look like in real life. This practice, along with sharing the culture components with leaders and helping them understand each of them has provided openings for growth we never could have seen before, let alone enjoyed.
The Benefits of an Intentional Culture
When you’re intentional about your culture, you know where to focus. It drives decision making – helping you determine what relationships to invest in, what opportunities to pursue, and where to invest your capital – financial, energy, and time.
Doing the work of naming your vision, mission and values is hard work. According to research by Deloitte, nearly 9 out of 10 executives say culture and engagement are important or very important. Yet, only 12% of companies understand their culture.
Leaders are the stewards of the organization’s culture
As the leader, you are the steward of the culture of your organization. You have to spell out what you want the culture to look like. Adopting a passive approach to your culture leads to culture shaped by default. There is a good chance you will end up with a culture you don’t want. It takes courage and hard work to define and develop your culture, but the payoff is worth it.
When you define the culture you want to build, you make better decisions. You name the values you hold as most important, the way you want to go-to-market, how you want your brand to be seen in the marketplace. That drives all your decisions. You focus here, instead of there. You know the right relationships to build. You can identify the right opportunities to pursue, as opposed to going willy-nilly after everything.
This is reflected in your bottom line. From the same Deloitte study, “Companies that proactively manage culture demonstrate revenue growth over a 10-year period that is, on average, 516% higher than those who do not.” That’s hard to argue with. The only way to get that 516% higher revenue growth over 10 years is to start today!
Culture as Guardrails
Your culture sets up guardrails for your vision, mission, and values. It helps you find the right team members, people whose values are aligned with your own. Those aligned values come in different types of people. Seek out diversity in thought and experience, because that helps you stay in a growth mindset. Possessing aligned values doesn’t mean hiring carbon copies of yourself. We need others who compliment us, not carbon copies of ourselves.
Finding team members who share your vision, your values, and your culture propels you forward into the vision more fully. None of us are able to effectively do all that is needed to bring a vision to life. Your role is finding team members who commit to your culture, who support the strategies to accomplish your shared goals. This may seem difficult, but it is worth the investment. With an intentional culture to guide you, you can accomplish more than you ever imagined.
A Virtuous Circle
The results are reflected in your bottom line and in your reputation in the marketplace. You create a virtuous circle – you have a well-defined culture where people want to contribute, provide products and services that serve your ideal customer, develop strong relationships with your stakeholders – these outcomes all contribute to profitability for your organization.
Want to start working on that 516% higher revenue growth over 10 years but not sure where to start? I can help you dig into the work of naming your culture and intentionally living it out. Let’s start with a 15-minute discovery call to see how we can work together. Click here to schedule.