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Company Culture


Welcome back to our video series. In this series we are going to talk a little bit about culture and I am going to give you a different perspective.

I think that there is a tendency for companies to have a “corporate culture” and that culture represents how everybody in that business does things, how they communicate to each other, and it’s almost like a company personality.

I think that is a mistake, I think that is a mistake because candidly, companies should have multiple cultures and each culture should be representative of the different function within that company.

An example that I would give you is me as a business owner. If I am looking for a law firm to represent me in a case, I am looking for a company that is aggressive, that has an aggressive culture that has a no lose culture, that I know will represent me with ferocity.

When I am looking to buy or hire accounting services. I am looking for accuracy. I am looking for precision. If I am looking to buy marketing services, I am looking for creativity, thinking outside the box. I certainly don’t want my accounting firm to think outside the box. I want different cultures from different vendors and suppliers.

If you think of your company as a variety of different departments, each representing a different function. The problem with an overriding corporate culture as an identifying buzzword for your organization is that your corporate culture may attract certain types of functions and people and repel others depending upon who you are trying to hire or what those employees actually want from your organization.

I’ll give you an example. Cathy and I a couple years ago went out to a company, a reasonably large company. They were looking to hire Product Managers, MBAs that had maybe 15 to 20 years of experience with a very high level of ambition, a lot of drive, professionalism. Up and comers.

In the meeting with the HR person, we asked about culture. She was very quick to point that it was a great culture because every Friday in the summer they barbeque in the parking lot and then they play shuffleboard…and isn’t that a great culture? I had a hard time wrapping my head around the 35 year old Wharton grad who was going to be really happy that he or she was going to have to stop a project that had a deadline because they had to attend this barbeque and play shuffleboard.

So, I think companies that have corporate cultures need to broaden the concept and candidly water it down, because each different department will want different things and they should have that autonomy. Managers should have the autonomy to create cultures.

An operations culture in a manufacturing company should have a culture of reliability, safety, concern about delivery accuracy and quality. That same company’s engineering department or product development department should have a culture of inventiveness, cleverness, a little bit of thinking outside the box, a new product development drive. That in some ways is the antithesis of the operations culture.

That same company will probably have a marketing department and the culture within that marketing department should be risk taking, cleverness, the ability to come up with concepts, and the ability to knock concepts down. The one thing that I know about marketing and advertising is that only one out of every ten ideas is good.  So, the ability to project an idea and to take rejection in your marketing and advertising function is important.

That very same company may have a sales culture and that sales culture should be driven, should be competitive. Now let’s take that and say, that sales culture, let’s pretend we are putting  that in the manufacturing operation. Do you really want a manufacturing operation that has a culture of competitiveness? No, you want a culture that is cautious, careful, risk averse, because manufacturing operations are dangerous.

So, a lot of companies that put together corporate cultures do it in a way that I think hamstrings their ability to attract candidates in specific disciplines, in specific parts of the company, and in many instances, can repel them.

People that want a high level marketing career are going to be reluctant to work for a company that has a risk averse culture, and a cautious culture because it’s a manufacturing dominated company. Nobody is saying manufacturing shouldn’t be like that. But, if you give specific managers the opportunity to create mini cultures in their own environments that will attract and keep the kind of people that are successful in that specific discipline, I think you can go a long way to building teams.

The only caveat to that is each of those mini cultures absolutely has to respect the other cultures. Or else, you get into a situation where these departments make fun of each other, candidly. Sales thinks everyone else is a dolt. Engineering thinks that everyone in the company is slow. Operations thinks the people that are in sales are manipulative.

The one overriding culture within your organizations should be a respect for everyone else. Other than that, the ability to create the mini cultures I think can go a long way for giving you a good environment. and getting better people, and keeping your people longer.

So, that is my little diatribe on culture. Hopefully it has given you a different perspective and something to think about. You, as a manager, can start trying to carve out some space in your organization that will be specific to the kind of people that you want to bring into the organization.

As ever, thanks for getting this far. Don’t forget Right Recruiting for all of your employment needs. Thanks.

Music by Ema Grace | “Check Them In” http://freemusicarchive.org/music/Ema_Grace/~/Check_Them_In
Creative Commons Attribution License — Changed only to shorten for need.

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