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It’s no secret that a company culture defines success. No matter what your industry is, if it doesn’t have a strong culture, you won’t be able to thrive.

I am tremendously humbled that my company, Phillips Home Improvements, was recently recognized as one of the best small companies to work for in DFW by the Dallas Business Journal.

This would not have been possible had we not placed a strong emphasis on building the right company culture.

My Biggest Misstep in Building Company Culture

One of the things I wish I had known earlier in my career was the importance of building the right company culture. I attempted to be inclusive and open-minded and allow people to be themselves…we all know we cannot control people. Slowly, this took my company culture down a slippery slope and downward spiral of degrading company culture. It spilled over into our hiring, management, and even our customer service.

The problem was compounded by the fact that my direct reports hired people under them who were even another step away from what I really wanted my company to be. Eventually, I had departments that were not representing me, my name, and my company the way I intended. This is when I had a wake-up call, decided I must grow as a leader, and started making personnel changes… I changed/upgraded myself, and I had to exchange some of my managers and start over in some respects.

Culture is the Invisible Force in Your Business that drives or erodes results

Jason W. Phillips

The Importance of Building a Winning Company Culture

Rather than tell you in my words the importance of company culture, I am going to share with you three quotes from some notable leaders.

Until I came to IBM, I probably would have told you that culture was just one among several important elements in any organization’s makeup and success — along with vision, strategy, marketing, financials, and the like… I came to see, in my time at IBM, that culture isn’t just one aspect of the game, it is the game. In the end, an organization is nothing more than the collective capacity of its people to create value.

Louis V. Gerstner, Jr., Former CEO of IBM)

There are only three measurements that tell you nearly everything you need to know about your organization’s overall performance: employee engagement, customer satisfaction, and cash flow …It goes without saying that no company, small or large, can win over the long run without energized employees who believe in the mission and understand how to achieve it…

Jack Welch, Former CEO of GE

Culture guides discretionary behavior and it picks up where the employee handbook leaves off. Culture tells us how to respond to an unprecedented service request. It tells us whether to risk telling our bosses about our new ideas, and whether to surface or hide problems. Employees make hundreds of decisions on their own everyday, and culture is our guide. Culture tells us what to do when the CEO isn’t in the room, which is of course most of the time.

Frances Frei and Anne Morriss, Co-authors of Uncommon Service: How to Win by Putting Customers at the Core of Your Business

How to Build Company Culture

Your company culture needs to be a reflection of you and your values, and there are a number of things that you can do to build the company culture that you want.

Here are some of my suggestions for building your company culture:

Represent Your Culture in Writing

Start by writing down what you want your company culture to be. Write out your list of company core values. Take the time to Define each core value and its meaning in your environment. This document will become the basis and measuring stick for everything else. It’s also okay that it is a living document it is updated and clarified on a regular basis.

Recruit for Culture

If you don’t have good training and onboarding systems, it’s just too easy to look for people with experience or skills under their tool belt before you meet them. Those things are great, but they can be learned. During the interview process, ask questions that will uncover the values and work ethic have your candidates before you hire them. You’ll never get it one hundred percent, but you have to start somewhere. A great place to start is to read The Ideal Team Player by Patrick Lencioni.

The ideas in this book have greatly helped my team.

Shaping your culture is more than half done when you hire your team.

Jessica Herrin, founder Stella & Dot

Once you do hire them, make sure you include thorough reinforcement of your culture during their training period.

The most memorable time of an employee’s career, and the time with the biggest impact, are his or her first days and weeks on a new job. Excerpt From

Patrick M. LencioniThe Advantage

Recognize for Culture

Positive reinforcement in the form of recognition goes a long way. Take time to recognize amongst your team and possibly even publicly the specific things your team members do that represent the company culture that you want to build.

One of our core values is “People”. A while back at one of our quarterly off-site meetings, I was chatting with one of our salespeople and asking him about a particular project and how it went. He casually mentioned that he brought her flowers because she had just recently lost her husband. No one asked him to do that, and he didn’t shout it out on our team chat praising himself or looking for recognition. He just casually mentioned it to me while I was asking him about that particular client. I made a point to thank him personally and to recognize him in front of the entire team.

You can buy people’s hands with a paycheck but you have to earn their hearts.

Jason W. Phillips

Replace for Culture

No matter how good of a job we try to do in hiring the right people to match our values and fit our culture, sometimes it just is not a good fit. If someone is not a culture fit for your company, it’s never going to work out long-term, and it’s highly unlikely that they’re going to give you their best anyways.

My recommendation is to help them find a place where they can succeed in fit in elsewhere. This isn’t easy, but you have to do it if you were going to build a cohesive team.

Most people work just hard enough not to get fired and get paid just enough money not to quit.

George Carlin

Remind Your Employees of the Culture

Talk about your culture… a lot. Every chance you get. You may get sick of saying it, but some studies suggest that your people must hear something up to seven times before it sinks in and they believe it…believe you.

We spend a moment or two on this subject at every one of our team gatherings whether weekly, monthly or annual. I find this is a great way to continue to reinforce culture with our team.

Rehearse the Culture

This may sound a little out of place, but you can also rehearse the way employees will act and how decisions will be made in a classroom environment for individuals or groups.

Don’t assume that your employees will know how to make the right decisions and say the right things even if they desire to do so. This is where rehearsing and scripting in role-play can be a great help and actually build your employees. And their ability to champion your culture.

Remunerate for Culture

I’m a big proponent of connecting compensation with desired outcomes. Those desired outcomes are not always sales goals or hitting budgets. You can also compensate people for things like customer satisfaction.

Once you find a way to measure it, it becomes easy to put a number on it and therefore create systems by which people are compensated for doing the right thing.

This is not about fuzzy, holding hands around a campfire, kumbaya stuff. That’s not what values and culture and mission is about. This is about building an organization for success. This is about winning. This is about doing the tactical things to make sure your organization and your people are aligned around the same thing.

— Justin Moore, CEO of Axcient

Reward for Culture

It’s one thing to remunerate/compensate your people for championing your culture, but it’s also important to reward them in other ways. You can create contests and set goals that individuals and teams strive for, or you can randomly surprise them with bonuses, gift cards, etc.

Remember that what you celebrate and reward will grow.

What you celebrate and reward will grow.

Raise Up for Culture

One of the worst things you can do for your culture is to promote people who do not champion your company culture…even if they are top performers. It is absolutely vital that your leaders and managers can be trusted to not only “abide by” your company culture, but to truly champion and build your company culture. They are the ones you are entrusting your departments to…your front-line people.

This should go without saying, but you obviously would not promote someone solely because of culture. They need the skills to deliver in the new position, but culture should be one of the key criteria in selecting someone to promote.

In Conclusion

I hope you can now see that it is essential to have a company culture that is ingrained in all aspects of the business. Winning companies understand the importance of creating a positive environment where employees feel appreciated and are motivated to excel.

If you will begin to see yourself not only as the CEO of your business but also as the CCO… Chief Cultural Officer, meaning that company culture should be interwoven in virtually everything you do in your business.