It’s not enough to just be in business.
There may have been a time when that was enough (maybe), but not anymore.
To just be in business means that you just provide a job to your employees, just provide a product to your customers, and just provide shelf space to your vendors.
The problem is, employees today are looking for more than a job, they’re looking for a cause they can commit to with all their heart and soul.
Customers today are looking for more than a product, they’re looking for a company they can believe in and recommend freely to family and friends.
And vendors today are looking for more than just another retail channel, they’re looking for strategic partners with whom they can build a long term business relationship.
Businesses that are just in business don’t last long in this new reality. Try telling today’s customer that you can’t respond to their request because, “It’s not our policy.” Gone is what they’ll be, to someone else who will.
And that’s a good thing. A very good thing. But it means doing business differently.
Are You Ready for Different?
Different means this. It means creating a culture at the core of your company that makes your business a movement, not a half-hearted attempt at making money. Culture motivates the people who work for you to give one-hundred percent effort, one-hundred percent of the time and inspires loyalty in customers like a religious experience.
This is Southwest making travel fun. This is Nike making life an adventure. This is Apple making technology elegant and simple.
Culture also makes money. Southwest … Nike … Apple. All money making enterprises, am I right? But money didn’t come first with any of those companies. Culture came first, then money. Lots of it.
What Is Culture?
What is culture? Quite simply, it’s the internal operating system of your company.
We all love a good app, don’t we? It may be a game, a social media site, a to-do list manager, or a news aggregator. We have our favorites and use them every day, many times a day.
No app in the world, however, can make up for a bad operating system. If the operating system on your smartphone is slow, out of date, or simply broken beyond repair, an app won’t work no matter how amazing it is.
In the business world there are apps as well—marketing, sales, production, service—and there’s the operating system. Culture is that operating system. The best product at the best price brought to the marketplace with the most brilliant plan cannot overcome the destructive power of a broken culture.
Or, in the words of Peter Drucker, “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.”
And this is where to begin in leadership, because the impact of culture is all pervasive. Rather than having it be an occasional concern, successful executives make culture their top priority and enjoy world-class performance as a result.
Two Keys to Culture
Culture really isn’t that complicated. Your internal operating system is driven by two things: beliefs and behavior.Beliefs come first. They’re the values your company embraces at its very core. Beliefs are what your firm says it will do no matter what, the most important things of the most important things. These are what define your company’s character.
Behavior follows beliefs. It’s what you actually do as a company about what you say you will do. Not mere words on a page or a plaque on the wall, but the actions you take based on your values. Consistency of character. Practicing what you preach.
It’s a beautiful thing when behavior and beliefs are aligned. Customers feel the difference and employees give their all. The expectations they have about your company meet their actual experience. Imagine that?
The converse is painful.
At the college I attended, the dean’s birthday was Clash Day. What we did on Clash Day was express our “love” for the dean by wearing clothes with colors that clashed terribly. We marched around as clowns on campus in repelling outfits with offensive color combinations.
For some companies, everyday is Clash Day between what they say they will do and what they actually do, between the things they espouse and the actions they take. As a result, they repel employees and customers alike.
As you come to the end of this year as a leader and consider the opportunity of the next twelve months that lie ahead, ask yourself these questions. How’s the culture at your company? How well are its beliefs and its behavior aligned? What can you do about it?
It’s the one thing that changes everything.