Strong Company Culture Requires Dedication and Communication, Not the Best MBA
The Next Silicon Valley feature news, articles, commentary and opinion on a wide range to topics found at the intersection of technology innovation and global economic development. In this contributed article, freelance business writer Julianna Davies looks at the nitty-gritty elements of establishing a 'company culture' and explains why this seemingly simple step is so important to future success.
In the business world “culture” is often tossed around as an essential—sometimes even magical—element. It sets the winners apart from the losers, many say; it is the difference between employees who can’t wait to jump aboard the next big idea and those who are counting down the seconds till five o’clock. Describing culture is often a lot easier than actually embracing or implementing it, though, and entrepreneurs often fall into the misguided belief that culture will just “happen.” Companies and corporations with strong cultures often make things appear seamless, but looks can be deceiving. Particularly in today’s uber-competitive market, getting culture wrong is not a mistake many startups can afford—which means that at least some careful planning and brainstorming is required at the outset.
Most of the examples of “strong culture” come from the corporate world. Giants like Apple and Google are often trotted out as possessing the ideal balance of branding consistency and employee satisfaction. Operations like Southwest Airlines and Zappos also enter into the discussion, particularly when their CEOs go on the record crediting things like “our strong corporate culture” as the secret to their success. Business students the nation over have studied these brands as models of how culture works, and have used their achievements as benchmarks.
Studying examples of success can be helpful, but rarely is this approach comprehensive—particularly not for entrepreneurs. Unlike sound accounting or fair benefits, culture is not something that can be simply applied. “Every company has a corporate culture, and every company's corporate culture is as different as one person is from another,” Evan Carmichael, an entrepreneurial consultant, has said. “Culture can be defined as the way a company defines and captures what’s important to ensure its success.”