Five More Characteristics of Great Culture

Ignore Culture at Your Peril, Part 3

[su_dropcap style=”flat”]A[/su_dropcap] LOT OF BUSINESS LEADERS think culture is squishy. They don’t like squishy. They’re more comfortable with data in spreadsheet rectangles. But culture makes up MORE of the foundation of a successful business than sticks and bricks do. Employees don’t come in to your company every day because of the paint on the walls or the water in the cooler. They come because of culture.

As I wrote in my last Article, culture is the framework employees use to create meaning and purpose, and THAT’S what motivates people to give their best. We’re proactive about that framework at Decision Toolbox (DT), and it helps us put some nice numbers in those spreadsheet rectangles. As a continuation of my last post, here are five more ways to create great culture.

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1. Great culture hires right then lets go. In recruiting, take your time, hire people who are smarter than you, and then get the h#!! out-of-the-way. Forbes contributor Mike Myatt wrote an interesting piece saying that competency-based leadership models are incomplete. In addition to competency, you need to cultivate your people’s “ability to align purpose, vision, values, character and commitment” with competency.
2. Great culture builds exponential energy. It’s hard to stay disgruntled when all around you are shooting off fireworks. Those A players you hired? They help shape your culture. They set the bar high, motivate their colleagues and generate momentum with great ideas. Your culture should encourage people to rev the company’s engines, and reward them for doing so.
3. Great culture welcomes like family. Invest in onboarding and you’ll see the returns. When a new team member starts at DT, we send a giant fortune cookie that says, “We predict a very bright future for you at Decision Toolbox.” We let them know they have the freshest eyes, and that makes them one of the most important people on our team . . . please tell us what you see that’s missing or inefficient or redundant. Not only does that set the stage for them to engage and participate, but it also sends a loud and clear message that they are valued.
4. Great culture isn’t afraid to make mistakes. Everyone screws up. If you’re not making mistakes, you’re not trying hard enough. But if you think about it, there’s great power in screw-ups. If you screw up good and then share it, no one will EVER screw up that way again. So at DT we celebrate the screw-ups with a Boo-Boo of the Month award, a Starbucks gift card for the biggest mistake. That helps ensure that people come to management for help in smoothing over any rough spots, and it gives everyone a chance to learn.
5. Great culture PIECEs it together. Passion, Integrity, Ethics, Compassion and Empathyyou need them. I wrote in my last post that you build your business with your head, but create culture with your heart. It can be hard to switch back and forth, so why not integrate them? At DT every dollar of our advertising budget goes to support nonprofit organizations. It gives us visibility, allows for networking and, most importantly, lets us give back to our community. We also have a unique channel partner Nonprofit Relief Program. The channel partner chooses a nonprofit and DT donates 8% of our first TWO years of revenue with a company brought in by that channel partner. The channel partner gets revenue, DT gets business and — most importantly again — we all get to give back.[/message][su_spacer]

Hopefully that squishiness is starting to look a lot more substantial. In the final Article of this series, coming up, I’ll delve deeper into the WHY: why people work for your company, and how the quality of WHY separates great companies from merely good ones.


Kim Shepherd
Kim Shepherd
AS CEO of Decision Toolbox, Kim Shepherd leads the company’s growth strategy, primarily through developing partnerships, alliances and as an active member of the Los Angeles and Orange County human resources community. A recognized thought leader by HR organizations nationwide including the Human Capital Institute, Kim is a regular speaker at national and regional events on various business models. Kim joined Decision Toolbox in 2000, and brought her unconventional approach to the company she had admired as a client. Today Decision Toolbox is 100% virtual, with more than 100 team members working remotely across the U.S. This company is a Certified Women’s Business Enterprise. This unique business model has played a key role in the company being awarded the Alfred P. Sloan Award for Business Excellence in Workplace Flexibility in 2009, 2011 and 2012. Decision Toolbox was also named one of the "Fastest Growing Private Companies" by the Orange County Business Journal in 2012. In addition, they have been named 3 years running to the INC 500/5000 List of Fastest Growing Private Companies and have been a 7-time recipient of the HRO Today’s Baker’s Dozen for Midmarket and Emerging Markets. Calling Kim unconventional is an understatement – her former endeavors include 10 years as a TV and Foreign Correspondent, a stint at Club Med and a near miss at a spot on the Olympic ski team. Kim is an active member of the Adaptive Business Leaders Executive Roundtable and the National Association for Women Business Owners (Orange County Chapter). She served on the Executive Board of Trustees for Girls Incorporated of Orange County and is also the Board Chair for Working Wardrobes. She is also a former member of Impact Giving. Kim is the recipient of the National Association of Women Business Owners (Orange County Chapter) 2013 Innovator of the Year Award, the 2014 Enterprising Women Magazine’s Enterprising Women of the Year, and the 2015 Family Matters Award from WomanSage.

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