One of the things I find myself thinking about quite a bit lately, and I find my partners and I discussing, is our company culture. I previously had always brushed culture off as the natural by-product of the personalities of us owners. And to some extent it is, but the problem with that mentality is that it implies that good culture doesn’t require planning or work. As if it magically happens. I mean, without any effort, you’ll get a company culture, it just might not be one you’re proud of. I’ve sort of come full circle on the topic.
Taking a step back, I think that “culture” is such an elusive term because it’s hard to define. I think if you asked twenty business owners you’d get twenty different answers. Which is fine. But if we’re going to work on our company culture, it’s next to impossible to do without first determining our definition of company culture. I’ve intentionally not researched other definitions in an attempt to make myself think through the entire thought process myself, from the perspective of someone who owns Pure Adapt and is interested in Pure Adapt’s culture, and not from the vantage point of someone trying to define culture in a broader sense.
With that said, here’s how I’m defining company culture (in no particular order).
- How we motivate ourselves and our employees (financial vs. intrinsic motivation)
- Our work ethic (working as hard as our employees vs. expecting them to do all of the work)
- How we reward good work (praise, raises, bonuses, extra time off, profit sharing)
- The qualities we look for when we hire (technical skills vs. social skills vs. personality fit)
- The atmosphere of the work environment (intense vs. laid back)
- Where new ideas come from (bottom up vs. top down)
- How we work together (collaborative work environment vs individual vs dictatorship)
- How we treat our customers (like we want to be treated vs. inflexible corporate policies)
- How we celebrate our successes (thousand dollar dinners vs. pizza and beer at happy hour vs. doing nothing)
- How we handle mistakes (learn and move on vs. holding a grudge)
- How we dress (casual vs. corporate)
- How we communicate (one-on-one vs. meetings, in person vs. email vs. IM vs. phone vs. video chat)
Does that make sense? Did I miss something? Clearly some of those questions have no “right” answer, or there are a combination of answers that will work right for us. You can see pretty easily though how different the culture could be just by swinging one or two of those things in a different direction. I think it’s important for us to do a better job of getting our desired culture in place now when we’re small. It’s not that we’ve intentionally been creating a poor culture, it’s that we haven’t really intentionally been creating any culture at all.
I’ve also added a culture category to the blog. I think it’s something I’ll be posting about regularly in 2011, starting soon with a post about some of our recent new initiatives.