One of the most important aspects of any company is the company culture. In fact there are experts in the world who have found that company culture is the reason that a company will survive and prosper, or go out of business. If you think about it, aside from disasters like the financial crisis of 2007, 2008 and (will probably go to) 2009, most companies that experience ongoing success have cultures that survive the upturns and downturns of most economic cycles. Think of companies like Hewlett-Packard, Dell, General Electric, Wal-Mart and others that seem to continue to succeed in all but the most extreme situations. Now, they can all take stock price hits depending on a given set of news, or events, however over the long term they seem to succeed. Is this only because their customers buying more goods or services from them? No, I would argue that the reason their customers by more goods and services is because of the company culture which is completely reflected in the company brand.
So how is a culture defined? Largely, company culture is defined as the types of people involved in the company, and how everyone behaves and functions. Does a company hire “A” players? Or do they allow for less productive participants? Do companies treat their employees, customers, partners and other constituents with respect and dignity? Or is it all about profit whether or not it’s the right thing to do?
We all have been involved in companies with good cultures and bad cultures.
What are the elements of culture?
First and foremost, a great company culture starts with trust. Without trust, employees don’t trust management, management doesn’t trust employees, partners, vendors and customers don’t trust the company and so on. In the opening phases of a startup, it is very important to define the company culture. Now while this may seem irrelevant or something to do on a rainy day when you have time (by the way you never will have more time in the future than you do right now), I am going to argue that it is probably the most important thing you can do before you interact with your first employee, customer,partner, supplier or other constituent. Your company culture defines who you really are and where you’re going as a company. Without a foundation, any structure will soon crumble. Culture is the foundation to your company.
The first step in defining culture starts with vision for your company. Vision is your long term brand or image. How will people think of you and your company? When you take your company to its end (transfer of assets, IPO or acquisition) what will it look like? Think of the highest level vision for your company, and draft a statement around it. Here is an example of a vision statement:
“Year after year, Westin and its people will be regarded as the best and most sought after hotel and resort management group in North America.” Westin Hotels Vision Statement
You can see the vision statement is defining relationships with your constituents and your overall brand. It’s a guiding light or Northern Star that helps all in your company determine the proper behavior to move forward. It’s the element that when times get tough or people are at odds, that defines a greater good to had. A vision statement should include a statement about the quality product or service you offer, a statement about how you will relate to your customers, partners, shareholders and/or employees, and some information about your market and where you will be positioned (largest, most heralded, easiest to work with etc.). If you look below, you will see a short vision statement from one of the companies that I founded earlier in my career.
If your vision is the guiding light for your company, values are the elements of behavior. Trust, mentioned above is a key value. Does everyone trust each other? Or do people not trust each other and watch their own backs?
Other values you might find important or applicable are things like: integrity, efficiency, quality, perseverance, inspiration, creativity, courage, compassion, respect, fun, enjoyment, acceptance, perfection and more.
The key is to define values that you believe will be important for the future of your company. Values well help set the tone of how everyone in your company will behave. If your company is one of mutual respect, should anyone ever get yelled at? If your company has a value of creativity, should great ideas be quashed because they did not come from the management ranks? Unfortunately, the hard part is not defining your values but sticking to them. In a company that is values-driven individual employees will be able to call the company or other employees on value violations. And if the company truly holds to those values, they will respect their values and everyone will behave accordingly. See below for a sample company values statement.
A mission statement is articulation about why the company exists. In other words, what is your mission? Here is an example of IBM’s mission statement: “Our goal is simply stated. We want to be the best service organization in the world.”
Let’s look at Federal Express’s mission statement:”FedEx is committed to our People-Service-Profit Philosophy. We will produce outstanding financial returns by providing totally reliable, competitively superior, global, air-ground transportation of high-priority goods and documents that require rapid, time-certain delivery.”
And here is Wal-Mart’s mission statement:”To give ordinary folk the chance to buy the same thing as rich people.”
As you can see there are both short and long mission statements. Both simple and complex. Does your mission statements accurately reflect why your company exists, or is in business?
Now let’s compare Westin’s mission statement to its vision statement:
Vision statement – “Year after year, Westin and its people will be regarded as the best and most sought after hotel and resort management group in North America.”
Mission statement – “In order to realize our Vision, our Mission must be to exceed the expectations of our customers, whom we define as guests, partners, and fellow employees.(mission) We will accomplish this by committing to our shared values and by achieving the highest levels of customer satisfaction, with extraordinary emphasis on the creation of value. (strategy) In this way we will ensure that our profit, quality and growth goals are met.”
I hope the above provides enough examples for you to draft your own mission, vision and values statements. Once a company has accomplished the above, you’re ready to begin setting your goals and objectives. Feel free to click on the goals and objectives pages for more information.