How Far Will You Go to Preserve Culture?

It’s a fair question that we ask ourselves (especially those in a managerial position): How far will you go to preserve your company’s culture?

I think there is a very easy example to acid test this. Put yourself in an office setting: if you have someone who is an absolute rainmaker (brings in TONS of business for the firm), but is hurting those around him and damaging the company culture, do you keep him (and deal with it), or get rid of him? Your answer to that question will tell you everything.

Culture is the New Competitive Advantage – It’s Everything

What do 3M, P&G and Google have in common? Their culture is their competitive advantage. People are always looking to grow, innovate and expand the business because it is part of their culture. Google’s 20% rule has formed the bulk of their new products (including basics such as Gmail). The same policy at 3M ensures they are always launching new products and rapidly expanding as a firm. What would happen if they strayed from that path of building people around their culture? Anyone who thinks people burn the extra fuel because they are paid well obviously hasn’t read a book in the last decade. Money may be a great short term motivator, but it becomes addictive like heroin – people need shot after shot, and the dosage needs to get larger and larger, for it to maintain the same effect.

People are motivated by much more complicated factors then a pay cheque. Sure, no one will complain if you offer them a million dollars, but they won’t necessarily devote their heart to the company either – the other downside: mercenaries don’t stay long after the funds run out. Instead, you want to build your firm around its culture. Get people engaged and emotionally staked in your firm, and you can accomplish anything as a group.

It’s a very hard question – especially for a leader. I asked myself today – if I didn’t culturally fit, would I have the strength to remove myself? I’m really not sure. Culture is the fountainhead for all firm growth: it’s the first thing new people see, and it’s the path that guides the firm’s development. When you are setting culture as a small group of people, you have to remember: size will only make you more of what you currently are. If you are innovative and free thinking when small, you will become disruptive titans once you gain size and a balance sheet. If you are profit and short term oriented, you will become a runaway freight train.

Culture will define the course of an enterprise, and the kind of people that join or pass on invitations. Culture will create competitive advantages, or destroy them. Culture will be the most important thing to attracting and fostering ideas that will define the future marketplace. The question is: how far will you go to preserve your culture?


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