A business culture is like any living body; it needs nourishment, attention, exercise, and love in order to be fit and healthy. It is the life force of your business. It is most vibrant and effective when you operate from a place of clarity, empathy, and awareness. When you work on your own leadership and put together a cohesive team, your business can become an incredibly fun, productive, and creative place to work.
Positive Business Culture
Follow these 15 business culture fundamentals to ensure that your business culture is healthy, safe, and thriving:
1. A positive, customer-centric environment
2. High retention of right-fit employees and customers
3. Focus on the six good P’s: Purpose + Passion + People + Planning + Processes = Profit.
4. Avoidance of the three bad P’s: Pettiness, Politics, and Prideful Actions
5. A foundation of purpose, vision, and values that are communicated and lived
6. Honesty, trust, integrity, and respect are practiced
7. A safe place to express ideas, learn from mistakes, and grow from failure
8. An organizational structure and roles defined with clear responsibilities and goals
9. Everyone is a leader and is held accountable for their behavior and results
10. Processes and policies are understood, documented, and followed
11. The use of conflict resolution and problem-solving methodologies
12. Transparency and cooperation at every level
13. Generous compensation, benefits, and opportunities for advancement
14. Investment in ongoing coaching, training, and professional development
15. Commitment to important charities, causes, and environmental concerns
Toxic Business Culture
An organization with an underperforming business culture may still possess some of these characteristics, but a toxic environment will have few or none of them. When I was first hired at GlobeTech International in 1991, I was thrilled to leave the restaurant industry behind and start fresh in a new global tech business. The learning curve was stiff, but I quickly adapted and began a quick rise to the top, becoming Vice President of Asian Operations in less than a year. It was a very exciting time as I traveled throughout Asia, launched new partnerships, closed big deals, and lived the life of a globetrotting wheeler-dealer.
Over time, I began to realize that the founder, a charismatic leader and expert on clever marketing and creative deal making, powered this company. He had the ability to identify young entrepreneur talent, plug us into his system, and teach us his ways. His hands-off management style was also attractive to me, and I delivered impressive results, opening up new markets and multiple operations throughout Asia. The energy was always fast-paced, competitive, and stimulating. I loved that I was part of something bigger than me, and my efforts were well compensated.
But the organization lacked strong leadership, structure, processes, accountability, and financial and personal integrity. We were always in a cash flow pinch and we found ourselves closing dubious deals week after week just to make payroll. The lawsuits began and grew. The owner lived a lifestyle that the business could not support, and the executive team was overpaid and under qualified. Over time, it seemed like almost every single person in the company went through a divorce, including myself. We were always on edge in everything we did, and after five years I had a falling out with the owner, and we parted ways. The company filed for bankruptcy six months after I left.
My time at GlobeTech was an incredible learning experience, and I knew I could do and be much better. Ultimately, I came to realize that although the business culture was superficially exhilarating and appealing, it was also incredibly dangerous and toxic. It did not contain most of the 15 business culture fundamentals needed for a healthy business to grow and sustain itself over the long term. The owner died a relatively young man a few years later, and many of my fellow executives and colleagues became successful with their own ventures. To this day, I cannot help but think about all of GlobeTech’s wasted potential, and this realization is a deciding factor that drives me to help as many organizations and business owners as I can to make better decisions and build healthier cultures.