You Will Know when Your Culture Is Strong

In his blog, Great Not Big, Carl has written about the three things every company needs in order to enjoy sustainable success: idea, execution, and culture.

Recently, while reading the June 2011 issue of Inc, I came across Chris Savage of Wistia and his blog, They each have some great perspectives on the powerful influence culture has on overall company success.

Chris frames three critical areas he observes will fall flat without a strong company culture:

Decision Making
A strong company culture can help every employee learn how to categorize a decision in a couple of basic ways. For example, at Wistia everyone knows how to prioritize the current task based on:

* How the decision will effect the customer experience
* How the decision will effect the support process
* How the decision will effect revenue growth

Bringing more people onto your team is one of the riskiest things you can do. The wrong hires will suck up time, resources, and will certainly damage the customer experience through bad decision making.

Having a strong company culture makes it much easier to screen applicants so that you can stop the hurt in advance. If defined properly, it will also help the right people find you.

People like to work with companies they can trust and understand. If you know how a company is run, you’re more likely to predict their actions and understand your place in their world.

If your business is obsessed with delighting customers, prospects will be more likely to give you a try. For further insight here, see point 7 of Joel Spolsky’s post on customer service (hat tip to Paul Farnell).

You can read Chris’s post here.

I appreciate Carl’s perspectives on the power of culture in successful companies as it dovetails with people and values:

I believe culture is the most important factor of all, especially for companies like ours. The reason culture is so important is the primary role people play in these companies. Every company obviously benefits from good people, but firms like Atomic typically have very few assets other than their people. Innovation and creativity can’t be manufactured, so you need to have a strong culture to recruit great people and support, challenge and inspire them. (From: The 3 things we need to get right)

Culture is created around what you value. It supports your inspiring “why” and reflects how you treat employees, customers and vendors. As a product of the interactions between individuals, it is inherently special and unique to each company. An interesting aspect of culture is that you have one whether you’ve given it much thought or not. Culture is ballast in stormy seas and the hardest thing you’ll ever try to change. Great ideas and top-notch execution get you only so far. I believe culture determines whether or not your success will be sustainable. (From: Economic growth requires more than bright ideas and risk taking)

Chris sums up his perspective this way:

You know your culture is strong when people understand what you mean when you say, “that’s a very COMPANYNAME thing to do” or “this should be more COMPANYNAMEish.” Think about the companies that you look up to for design inspiration (Apple), customer service (Zappos), or small business acumen (37Signals). Their company cultures are so strong that they permeate company walls and you and I now know what it means to handle a support request the Zappos way.

Cultivate your unique culture. Be intentional, share it and make it well understood inside and outside your company’s walls. Get it right and you will have a strong foundation on which to build and grow a great, long-term business.