Creating a Successful Culture -
You Get One Shot!
By: Rich Kramarik
The whole notion of culture is one of the most exciting but
least understood facets associated with being an entrepreneur. In contrast to
any existing company, a startup company has no culture, until it does, and once
it does (like most existing companies) it is too late to restart and very
difficult to change.
The culture of a company goes to its very
core, often becoming the determinant variable driving the strategic vision, the
tactical decisions, the quality of the employee base, and ultimately the
performance of the company. It is a great predictor of success, not to mention
concepts like achievement, creative thought, effective HR policy, collaboration,
and integrity within the organization. Culture is the proverbial glue
that binds the characteristics of success within an organization.
Culture is what drives everything within an
organization, because it is rooted in the attributes that are manifested as
subconscious drivers informing why and how people do what they do. Think about
how employees view themselves, the organization, their relationships, how they
treat others, how much they trust the leadership, how much they support the
organizational goals, how they make decisions, how loyal they are, and whether
they are team players. Each of these is influenced by the culture of the
organization (positively or negatively).
The culture sets the tone for what is
acceptable and what will not be tolerated. Just like effective
performance objectives, setting expectations within the organization that are
clearly defined, understood, and accepted is key to success.
Culture should be something that you walk,
talk, breathe, and live every moment of every day. It begins with the
recruiting/hiring of each employee, which creates a onetime opportunity to place
the burden of responsibility to understand, accept, and conform to the existing
culture on the shoulders of the prospective employee. But, rest assured, they
will be constantly watching the hiring manager and every employee they meet, for
reinforcement or denial of the company’s commitment to what they have been told.
The first time they perceive contradictory evidence, the charade is over and the
aspirational culture is gone. In a startup, this begins with the founders who,
hopefully, seed the company with employees that support the culture. This is one
key reason that startups typically have such loyal and rabid employees, who are
willing to do anything to ensure success and adhere to the culture. A
prospective employee immediately senses this and either joins/supports the team
or pursues other opportunities; so should existing employees.
This is a lot harder to accomplish in an
existing organization, because you need to overcome prejudice and bad habits,
but it is not impossible. Carefully choosing situations that are mission
critical and/or high visibility issues and prominently taking a stand is a good
start. Of course, this presumes the entire executive team is on board
with the desire to create a new culture and willing to walk the talk. Bringing a
few thought-leader employees on board with this shift in culture would also be a
good idea. For existing employees, the desired cultural attributes should be
incorporated into their performance objectives. The leadership must also be
consistent, fair, and transparent, at every step.
As an investor, I scrutinize the attributes
of the culture within the organization as key indicators of what I can expect in
performance, truthful communications, team collaboration, commitment, integrity,
These attributes will generally inform my
perspective on whether they are destined for mediocrity or success!
Creating a successful culture
--- you get one shot!
Brought to you by:
Bob De Contreras
RTBA | Cary | Greensboro | Raleigh | Research Triangle Park | North Caroliina
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