Forget The Fluff: This is What Company Culture is About


Previously on the blog we’ve written about Tony Hsieh of Zappos.

Tony has a high belief in the power of company culture. He believes in it so much that he recently said:

“I fire those who don’t fit our company culture.” (tweet this)

That’s a bold statement, but it should indicate to you’re the importance high-powered CEOs place on company culture today.

There are a lot of articles, presentations and other bits of information about company culture throughout the business world and most of it is simple fluff.

If you really want to implement a company culture that drives your business you’re going to have to go beyond the fluff and make every decision based on your culture and core values. 

Finding Company Culture

In business today, your culture is your brand.

It doesn’t matter if you’re a large corporation or a solo entrepreneur. The culture you and others in your company create and use to make decisions determine how customers and potential customers perceive your brand.

Your company culture is defined by the actions you and others take each day at your business.

We highlighted one example above with Zappos. CEO Tony Hsieh and his team determined that customer service and customer experience were going to be the core values of their company culture.

It’s one thing to simply make this decision. It’s another to take action by using this cultural belief to make decisions like hiring and firing based on how people fit the company culture.

You can define your company culture. Companies have done this for years by looking at markets and finding where there is an opportunity.

Apple is another example of a company that has a long history of having a strong culture. Since the beginning, Steve Jobs helped define Apple as a company focused on combining the best technology with the best design to create beautiful and functional devices and software.

Steve Jobs was notorious for having zero tolerance for anything that did not fit his vision for Apple. If a product wasn’t up to his standard of top design and functionality he would scrap the project and make the team go back and figure out something better.

Companies with strong culture, vision and mission can find lasting success.

One example is Soprano in Australia, which is building mobile apps for business with the vision to accelerate revenue for mobile network operators.

Soprano will continue to grow thanks in part to their strong culture. (tweet this)

If you don’t define your company culture you will still find one developing around your brand.

Again, your company culture develops around the actions of each person within the company.

Top executives often have the most influence on company culture because they make the most important decisions. Team members look to leadership for examples of how to make decisions and act accordingly.

But team members can also influence company culture with each decision they make.

Tony Hsieh and his team at Zappos understand this. It’s why they have a high standard for hiring and firing as it relates to their company culture. They know that if they have someone on the team that does not hold service and experience in the highest regard that it will negatively affect the Zappos brand.

Making Tough Decisions Based On Culture

Once you have your company culture defined the real work begins.

Every decision you make needs to be made in respect to your culture. You can’t make exceptions because it will change your culture.

Any conflict can confuse team members and lead to business struggles. If Zappos were to start making decisions based on something other than providing the best customer support and experience they would change the brand and lose the customers they’ve worked hard to build.

There is a new scandal in the USA with the company Pilot Flying J. The company is under federal investigation for rebate fraud.

For decades, the company was known as a reputable company with strong morals. Over time, decisions were made that put profits ahead of reputation. Instead of making tough decisions by using culture as a guide, employees from the top level down through the entire organisation allegedly started to keep rebates earned by customers.

Strong businesses like Zappos, Google and Apple have leaders that are able to make tough decisions using culture and core values as the guide for each decision.

Google has a list of ten beliefs with the first belief being that the company focuses on the user. By focusing on the user, all else will follow including profit.

Many Google products have come and gone. Google continues to experiment, but they’re never afraid to shut down a product if it doesn’t provide a good user experience regardless of the investment made in it.

By following the company culture Google has been able to build a strong collection of products including Search, Chrome and Google+. Each of these products features a great user experience that is among the best or the best in the industry.

In the past, Google has made decisions based on customer experience. The company stopped services like Buzz and Wave even though those services had other potential benefits. The services would have changed Google’s culture.

Being able to make tough decisions based on culture shows depth in leadership. It starts with a clear understanding of what the company culture is and it’s implemented from the top of an organisation all the way through to each team member.

Startup companies often deal with tough decisions. Company culture can be the guide to make those decisions.

The Little App Factory started with one application for transferring files from Apple devices. Now the company is adding new products based on user experiences for Apple devices. This is the culture and the guide for new products.

The Little App Factory will be a success because of their strong culture. (tweet this)

Hiring and Firing The Right Team Members

Implementing a strong company culture starts with you. As a leader in your business it’s up to you to set the highest standard for following the company culture and core values.

Once you’ve determined the company culture and you use it as your guideline you will have a new gauge for determining the right people to bring to your team.

Tony Hsieh says that at Zappos they look at ability as a main component of hiring, but they look at cultural fit just as much. The HR department at Zappos is versed well in the Zappos company culture. They have questions to ask with each candidate to determine if they fit the culture at Zappos.

A candidate may be the best in their respective position, but if they don’t fit the culture they are not hired. The same is true for current employees. If the HR department, through regular reviews, determines that an employee doesn’t fit the culture that employee is let go.

This can be a tough call. You might lose out on some people that are capable of doing great things. They may have even have made key contributions to your company, but over the long-term it would have been detrimental to your company culture.

Company culture is a difficult aspect of business.

It’s one thing to define the culture you want for your business. It’s another to use that culture to define the decisions you and your team make every day.

The companies that hold true to their cultures – Zappos, Apple, Google, et al . – have long-term and lasting success. They are able to keep moving toward their goals because they use culture as a guide for decisions.

You can do the same for your business. Determine what your culture is and start making decisions based on the culture you want to foster.

Over time, your culture will develop and you’ll have a strong company with strong leadership.

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