There is a great deal of discussion — and, rightfully so — about the importance that culture plays in the success or failure of any organization.
We frequently see articles about the exceptional culture of extraordinary organizations — from Fortune’s “Best Companies to Work For,” to Entrepreneur’s “10 Examples of Companies with Fantastic Cultures,” to Business Insider’s “25 Best Corporate Cultures,” there’s an intense focus on those businesses and leaders who have implemented the necessary elements to create a highly desirable work environment that delivers unique customer experiences.
Yet, what’s frequently overlooked in the discussion is this critical factor:
Your business philosophy is the cornerstone of your culture.
Take one of the companies frequently mentioned in studies of excellent corporate culture, Chick-fil-A. While employees rave about flexible scheduling and benefits, managers love the low turnover rate and the loyalty of their colleagues — even as customers constantly give high marks for the level of service at their fast food restaurants.
Yet, who would argue that the foundation of the results generated by this extraordinary culture springs from the business philosophy of their founder, the late S. Truett Cathy?
His philosophy is summarized as “We aren’t in the chicken business — we are in the people business.” His Christian values and commitment to customer service were well known and integrated into the business — closing on Sundays, responding to customer requests with, “My pleasure,” and handwriting personal thank you notes.
- Chick-fil-A’s culture as a company is an outgrowth of the business philosophy of its founder.
Consider on the other hand the secretive nature of the Apple culture…the important role that the marketing team plays in product development…the demands placed on many employees for an almost fanatical dedication to the company and its work. Does that sound like the approach and philosophy of any famous business leader?
Steve Jobs’ demand for “insanely great” products, for total confidentiality about products under consideration for development and more are well known. It’s not surprising that the culture of the company is a direct reflection of his philosophy about business and organizational success.
- Same with Apple — philosophy created culture. Like the previous example, very successful results — but a very different culture.
What does this have to do with you?
Two points to consider:
First, “culture” is not solely an aspect of multinational behemoths…a local dry cleaner has a culture, as well. It explains why you can walk into a restaurant or store in any town and just get a “feeling” about what your experience will be, even before you’ve talked to anyone at the business.
Even if you don’t think you have a culture at your department or business…you do, and you’d better be paying attention to it.
As Jim Rohn said, “Casualness creates causalities.” If you’re casual about your culture, your business or career may be the causality. Be intentional about your culture!
Second, since culture springs from your business philosophy, you need to spend some time asking yourself what your philosophy is. Write it out…edit it…polish it…share it.
For some, it’s just to make the most money possible. Guess how much people who hold that philosophy spend on training and development? Try to imagine what the customer experience is like at a place where the philosophy is “make all we can, as quickly as we can”?
For others, it’s “go beyond the ordinary to create an emotional impact on the customer” — a philosophy that has been attributed to Tony Hsieh of Zappos. We know how it worked out for his company.
- Mine is: “The purpose of any business is to profitably create experiences so compelling to customers that their loyalty becomes assured.”
(What’s yours? I’d love to see it!)
- Average philosophies create boring cultures that are bland businesses.
- Distinctive philosophies create compelling cultures that make the competition irrelevant.
Which do you choose?