Tag Archive: company culture

  1. Blueprints and Bourdain: Crafting a Consistent Company Culture

    Company Culture

    If there’s one thing I’ve learned in my time as founder and CEO of Findsome & Winmore, it’s that there is no opt-out button for company culture; it happens whether you plan it or not. Like floodwaters, culture tends to flow (often downhill) without boundaries. Part of the leader’s job is to build those boundaries by setting expectations for how things ought to work. As I was researching for my latest marketing book, Formulaic: How Thriving Companies Market From the Core, I was inspired by an unlikely source: tough-talking, world-traveling chef, Anthony Bourdain.

    Chef Bourdain is a divisive figure in the culinary world, often coming off as world-weary, gruff and unconcerned with ruffling his contemporaries’ feathers. While his abrasiveness may be well know, anyone who has read his Kitchen Confidential tell-all or watched his long-running TV series, Parts Unknown, also knows that his success is no fluke. Bourdain worked himself to the bone, dedicating his life to the world of culinary arts. In doing so, he has risen through the ranks from lowly cook manning a deep fryer to a world-renowned chef and TV personality. More than that, he has become a leader.

    One aspect of Bourdain’s leadership style that resonated with me is his persistence on the punctuality of his staff. Come hell or high water, Bourdain expects you to be ready to filet a tuna or sear a tomahawk steak as soon as your shift starts. Whether two minutes tardy or an hour late, your failure is still counted as a first and final strike. Upon your second case of tardiness, you’re off the team. Though strict, this stance is fair and sets a tone for the “company culture” of his kitchen. These expectations define his ideals and, therefore, reflect the level of excellence and responsibility his staff is expected to maintain. Not up to the challenge? Well, there’s the door.

    Of course, this level of brutal strictness doesn’t work in all (even most) companies but the lesson remains the same. Bourdain set a blueprint for company culture by not accepting anything but the culture he wants his kitchen to embody. Any good leader would be wise to instill the same within his or her own company. But how?

    Most importantly, you have to look inward and discover what is important to you. Your answer will be nuanced, multi-layered and possibly difficult to succinctly define, but you must do so in order to set clear cultural expectations. Build this blueprint based on the ideals you hold most dear, whether that’s punctuality or personal responsibility, collaboration or individual excellence–or a carefully chosen combination of all of these things (and more).

    Once the blueprint is defined and detailed in a culture guide, infographic, or video, you can set the foundation for your company culture. This breeds a clear, consistent vision for not just the present, but for a foundation to build a company’s success and a team’s happiness. After all, without a blueprint, you can’t have a solid foundation. Without a foundation, your company is sure to face some unsteady footing the larger it grows.

    While I don’t believe that simply hanging up a series of platitudes on the wall will solve all of your problems, it certainly does help. Without any definition at all, the floodwaters will simply flow where they may. Part of creating a winning culture is defining what you’d like it to be.  Without that definition, you very well may have a flood on your hands.

  2. Corporate Culture: Marketing Your Company from the Inside Out

    “If your company is an engine, think of culture as the lubrication that makes all the parts work together.”
    Matt Certo, Formulaic

    You’ve probably heard it before but it’s a lesson worth repeating: establishing a strong corporate culture is vital to its success. The hours spent strategizing and planning corporate culture, incorporating defined values into everyday company practices, and evaluating its success at creating an environment in which employees want to show up and be productive all help to set the stage for a company’s overall success. Used as tool to market a company from the inside out, corporate culture helps define how a company operates. It’s an asset that showcases how you operate differently and links the experience of the customer to the product by bridging a company’s values to the end product that it produces. Defining and sticking to these values is what builds the culture around you and sets expectations for how professional interactions will take place.

    Take, for example, our culture here at Findsome & Winmore. The agency was founded in 1995 when our agency’s CEO and principal, as well as author of Formulaic: How Thriving Companies Market from the Core (the inspiration for this very blog), began building websites out of his Rollins College dorm room. From the very start, Findsome & Winmore set out to exist as a passion-driven creative agency that is constantly on the lookout for new innovations to help our clients succeed in their marketing futures. It’s written right into our history: We share their (our clients’) passion for reaching people with good ideas, using the latest and greatest of technologies, and dreaming about the future.

    Founded as a creative space, we continue to hold that value important today, and work every day to incorporate creativity and inspiration into corporate culture. Our office here in Baldwin Park may have originally been designed to house a network of accountants, but we’ve transformed the space to fit our needs, which run parallel to our culture. With heavy emphasis placed on teamwork, fun, innovation and creativity, our office environment contains elements to breathe these cultural touchstones into our team and the services we provide through vibrantly colored walls for bright ideas; creative open spaces for collaborative thinking; whimsical wall decor designed to inspire; and fun “Third Thursday” activities planned regularly for free-flowing bonding time.

    That being said, corporate culture is never defined the same way for every company. It’s created and tailored based on how you’d like to be perceived both internally and in the public eye, and what you place value on as a company. In Formulaic, Matt references celebrity chef, Anthony Bourdain, as a prime example of how different companies showcase different cultures, one approach no less valid or effective than another. Bourdain has created a corporate culture within his kitchen according to structure, strict reinforcement and boundary setting. By vowing to fire employees on their second offense of being tardy, he instills the dire importance of punctuality within his corporate culture–albeit with an iron fist. This specific implementation will not work in many work environments, but in the high-stress, team-dependent and deeply disciplined world of high-end culinary art, it was a must to enforce Bourdain’s need for all hands to be on deck and on time.

    Defining Your Corporate Culture

    To start, your culture requires a plan. Establish how you’d like to define this and make it known by your team. By concentrating on these aspects of corporate culture, you’ll set your company up for a consistent presence and a successful marketing approach. 

    Are your employees the right fit?

    Choosing the right employees is fundamental to a company’s success. These are the individuals who represent your brand and the attitude you wish it to exemplify. You’re only as good as your team, and it’s important to ensure each member of it is reflective of the culture.

    This seems like it would go without saying, but it does take thought to ensure your team is reflective of your company and the products and/or services it offers. Our team places a high value on members who can work on a team, think innovatively and deliver our services by always going the extra mile. It isn’t just about what you can do on paper, but what you can deliver in person. This often requires a real, face-to-face interview to get a sense of whether the candidate is just talking the talk or if they seem confident in their abilities.

    Additionally, a large reason for asking interviewees for an in-depth interview is to determine if they’re a fit for the team. Will this person get along with the others? Do they share our outlook on delivering quality service for our clients? These are important aspects to consider within our culture, but by no means is this a hard rule for every company’s culture. Define who you want to represent your company and hire with your values in mind.

    What is important?

    Define what values are important for your corporate culture to represent, and how these elements will be reflected in the customer experience. Is it important that employees constantly assist each other as part of a team or is individuality a valued trait? Is your company driven on keeping uniform nine-to-five schedules or more of an on-call, never offline approach?

    Outlining those important elements of your company values is what will serve as a plan for building your corporate culture. When taking a look at Google’s corporate culture, you’ll see they push for creative thinking spaces in order to fuel the minds of their software engineers. Building this through the ability to design your own desks (yes, treadmill included) to the healthy snacks made readily available, the company is nonverbally enforcing outward, innovative thinking and encouraging a healthier lifestyle.

    Define the things that make your company what it is and constantly explore new ways to keep these active within the office environment.

    How will you keep your corporate culture present?

    Once internal values are defined and incorporated into the culture, regular maintenance is needed to keep them present and active on a day-to-day basis. A few ways to accomplish this are through:

    • Rituals: Simple activities you repeat from time to time to reinforce behaviors
    • Rewards: Identifying culture-friendly behaviors being exhibited and providing praise for them
    • Lexicon: Using language that fits your company’s culture both internally and externally to reinforce what you represent
    • Role Modeling: Having leaders exhibit and model what the corporate culture defines

    If your company completes its day-to-day services without its mission in mind, perhaps print this out and frame it for everyone on the team to take a look at every day, as we have at Findsome & Winmore.

    However your company chooses to reinforce the corporate culture, it’s important to keep it consistent and present within the workplace. Don’t make giving praise for good work a one-time thing. If showing appreciation to your employees for the great work they do is something the company holds important, this should be a regular practice that should be acted upon on a regular basis.  

    Keep the values you define as part of your corporate culture alive and well in the workplace. Values lose meaning or are lost completely once they start to fade in importance, and the loss is typically quite noticeable. Constant effort is key to keeping corporate values going.

    As stated above, no one culture is right for every company. It’s all about deciding what type of culture works for your company and keeping said culture not only present but thriving within the workplace. Defining the environment in which employees work, corporate culture constantly works to market from within first, then sharing the benefits of a well-oiled, highly defined culture with the customer.

    Looking for more marketing insights like the ones above? Check out Formulaic: How Thriving Companies Market from the Core, written by our CEO and principal, Matt Certo, and stay tuned to the Findsome & Winmore blog for more tips on how to unlock the formula behind effective marketing for your brand.

  3. What is Organizational Culture?

    Team in an Office

    Culture is a word that is thrown around quite a bit in today’s business climate as leaders think about building and growing strong organizations.  In a constantly changing and evolving global marketplace, I believe that the culture of a company is of critical importance in terms of building and developing the organization itself.

    That said, I’ve found that when many people talk about “culture” they are unsure of exactly what the word means in the context of a business.  It is a word that has many definitions with no singular answer.  Culture is also a concept that I find myself revisiting often to remind myself of what is actually is and why it is important to think about.

    I first read about the concept of culture in college.  One of the benefits about having attended Rollins College was its emphasis on liberal arts education.  I found myself in classes that were more focused on the humanities and less on the hard sciences.  I learned more about reading and writing than I did about physics and calculus.  One anthropology course I took featured the book, Cows, Pigs, Wars, and Witches:  The Riddles of Culture.  It explained how and why cultures form within groups and why, for example, the cow is so revered (or sacred) in India beyond its spiritual implications.

    Name TagAs I started to think and learn about more business, I was struck by different examples of leaders modeling the behaviors they wanted to see within their own companies.  Former Disney CEO Michael Eisner wrote in his book, Work in Progress:  Risking Failure, Surviving Success, that he would consciously pick up trash in his parks when he saw it.  The message?  While some CEOs would assign menial tasks like debris removal to the nearest low-level employee, Eisner wanted to promote a climate of teamwork, and all-hands-on-deck collaboration.  He also believed that every person should be called by his or first name.  His name tag said ‘Michael’ just like that of a parking attendant or server.

    I also saw negative examples of group culture form.  I once worked with a company whose leader used fear and threats to advance an otherwise positive agenda.  I saw how his management team adopted this style as well and how the climate became rigid, uncomfortable and unforgiving.  The result?  More people were focused on simply not getting fired than they were on advancing the company’s mission.

    I’ve also learned that a winning culture doesn’t just happen on its own.  Great companies like Ritz-Carlton have intentionally designed their cultures just like an architect designs a building.  The New Gold Standard is a book that talks in great detail about how Ritz-Carlton conducts morning meetings every single day about the facets of its culture.  One morning’s subject might be about anticipating customer needs while the next one might address the importance of referring to co-workers as “Ladies and Gentlemen.”  The lesson?  Culture can be written about or discussed, but it has to be reinforced regularly.

    So, how can we actually define organizational culture?

    As our team thinks about growing and developing a winning culture, there are a number of definitions that have surfaced.  Here are a few ways that others define culture:

    1. A system of shared assumptions, values, and beliefs, which governs how people behave in organizations. This definition is similar to many textbook definitions.  It is a codified set of facets that guides a group to an accepted standard of behavior.  Ritz-Carlton has taken a comprehensive approach to this and hires and manages based upon this set of beliefs.
    2. How we do things here – Short and sweet, I heard the leader of a national not-for-profit describe his definition of culture using just these five simple words.  Using the example above, Michael Eisner demonstrated that the way Disney “does things” is by using an all-hands-on-deck approach.  His actions said, “I’m the CEO but no task is beneath me.”
    3. Stop Sign

      Photo by: https://www.flickr.com/photos/renneville/ https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/

      The rules of the road. “Rules” can seem like a scary word, and antithetical to the cultures of companies like Southwest Airlines, which have fun, sing on the airplanes, and wear funny hats.  But rules can be comforting to people, because they let teammates know what they can expect.  For example, I know how everyone should behave when I come to a 4-Way stop sign.  I wait my turn and so do the three others at the intersection once we arrive.  Rules also keep you safe in high-risk situations.  My guess is that award-winning trapeze teams have some pretty deeply held rules when it comes to performance.

    At Findsome & Winmore, we are thinking long and hard about building and developing a great culture.  In our quest to do so, I hope these different examples and definitions we have found are helpful in your quest to do the same.