Among sayings, there are cliches and there are statements that hold true even as time goes by. One .such example is Peter Drucker’s famous: “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.”
If you’re not familiar with him, Peter Drucker is one of the most well-known business and management authors ever. His work includes books on knowledge work, management, and marketing with ideas that were well ahead of their time.
When it comes to business per se, there is nothing as appealing as the word strategy. And it’s easy to understand why. It’s kind of cool to think up a strategy to establish a new company, a new direction or a new product. However, there is a slightly less sexy part that strategy cannot possibly work without. Some refer to it as organizational culture, others call it by a somewhat shorter name: company culture.
What is company culture?
Company culture is like the personality of a company. It shapes the atmosphere around the office and sets a tone for how employees should behave while at work. Some see it as a complex mix of values, ethics, goals, company mission and work environment.
However, the defining element of company culture is the shared values, beliefs and assumptions that reflect what its employees do day in, day out.
Why is company culture so important?
A company’s culture can tell you a lot about the current state of things inside a company. What characterizes its employees, how they go about doing things, what they are ok with and what they’re not ok with.
Strategy is about where you want to be let’s say six months, one year or two years from now. Also, a strategy is mostly a plan. It needs people in order to be implemented.
If where you want to go doesn’t fit with the way you like to do things or the values that represent you, the chances for success are quite low. Strategies that don’t take into account how people actually behave and how they go about things have a small chance of becoming a reality.
Company culture matters because business needs innovation in order to survive. However, if the environment at work doesn’t support innovation, coming up with ideas or teamwork, chances are any initiative in that direction will be a waste of time and effort.
Additionally, company culture is important when it comes to teamwork as well. Sharing values such as collaboration or care for colleagues can make it easier for people to put their heads and work together for a specific project.
Last, but not least, company culture is a way to attract the right talent. For starters, people gravitate towards a good work environment, one that will allow them to grow. Second, communicating shared values openly attracts like-minded individuals.
4 examples of strong company cultures
With roughly 3 million resumes received per year (source), Google is one of the most sought employers today. And one of the best examples for what a strong company culture can do. Overall, Google has been rated as the best place to work for over and over again in various rankings. And it’s not just the perks: free food, massages, sports courts, cool office space and good pay.
Google has been often praised for its leadership and the strong mentorship programs inside the company. What’s more, Google has constantly invested in learning about how people work best and teams, what makes them work and what doesn’t. Additionally, it communicates its values and what it stands for clearly in “Ten things we know to be true”.
What you can take away: Building a good work environment where people can grow is crucial for attracting and keeping good talent. Also, hiring the right people is key for maintaining a strong company culture even as you grow. Google has made the case for hiring for the cultural fit, people who are both skilled and open-minded.
You don’t need to be a large company in order to have a company culture. Buffer is a great example for this. If you haven’t heard about it, Buffer is a social media management platform, it allows you to manage different social networks from one single place.
The company started just a few years ago in 2010. Currently, they’re a team of 72 people working as a distributed team from all over the world. Also, their tool is used by over 4,000,000 marketers, including large companies like Shopify.
Probably one of the things that has contributed to Buffer’s success was its openness. From the start, they have been very clear about who they are, what they value and what they have set out to do. You can check it out right here. Additionally, they’ve opened up about their internal processes, their challenges in establishing a culture with their dedicated blog Open Buffer.
What’s more, Buffer has also focused on delivering value for customers. For them, their users are at the forefront of everything they do. Conversely, their blog, Buffer Social is one of the most popular resources for online marketers.
What you can take away: A little openness goes a very long way. In an age where authenticity is key, being open and transparent allows you to connect with the right people both for recruitment and for business. Also, it’s important to have a clear vision about what you’ve set out to do as a business. Buffer’s vision has allowed them to stay on track and grow into one of the largest social media management platforms.
Zappos, now a subsidy of Amazon, is one of the largest online retailers. They started selling shoes online back in 1999 and expanded to a $1 billion business by 2008. Zappos CEO, Tony Hsieh is probably the number 1 supporter for developing a strong company culture. He believes, “Our number one priority is company culture. Our whole belief is that if you get the culture right, most of the other stuff like delivering great customer service or building a long-term enduring brand will just happen naturally on its own.”
Early on, Hsieh decided that Zappos should be known as the best customer service and the best customer experience company. Employees are encouraged to go beyond traditional customer service and to this end, they don’t have any limits on call times. The longest support call to date is 10 hours and 29 minutes. There are tons of customer support stories that made it the news, spreading the word even further. Moreover, Zappos randomly surprises customers with upgrade offers.
Zappos also protects their company culture by hiring the cultural fit. What’s more, it states its company culture all the way through its hiring process. (source) Months can pass between the initial interview and an actual offer. All new hires spend time taking customer calls and if they think they don’t fit in by the time of their trial period, they are offered $3000 to leave.
What you can take away: A sound business is built on delivering a good experience and good customer service for all your clients. That holds true if you’re selling shoes, pizza, construction equipment or what have you. Also, hiring the right people is the only way to make sure that you maintain a healthy, focused company culture in the long run.
Toggl is an online time tracker and employee management software. It started back in 2009 and today it has grown into a solid business with over 60 employees and almost 2,000,000 productive togglers.
Much of their company culture focuses on allowing individuals to grow. Through scheduled 1on1 discussions, emphasis on how to give feedback, Toggl creates an environment where employees feel safe and on track with their goals.
Additionally, what makes Toggl different is that they talk more about remote work in their company culture. With a sound emphasis on flexibility, they have established clear internal guidelines to make sure that all team members stay on track and connected. Moreover, they’ve shared their experience with building a remote culture in a dedicated guide, created along with Toggl Plan. You can check it out right here.
What you can take away: Building a strong company culture is also about a good balance between rules and flexibility. It’s important to give employees freedom and ownership over their work. At the same time, you also need to provide a minimum guideline and constant support to make sure that everyone stays on track.