How Do You Define Company Culture; What Is It and How Do I Create It?

Before companies built jaw-dropping structures in Silicon Valley that look more like Disney rides than a functioning company headquarters, they were writing code in a garage. The artistic design of these companies’ architecture hints at something even grander—a company culture. Pioneering companies realized their company culture long before settling in the hub of Santa Clara. They knew what they had to offer, and built a climate that cultivated-ideas-turned-products like the iPod. It all started with culture. So, what is company culture? Is it really so important? The answer is unequivocally yes.

A strong company culture distinguishes between existing and thriving as a business. The values, standards, and beliefs that exemplify a company are told through this medium. This is important for your customers too. Empowered consumers are reported to be 88% more loyal to a company when they “support social and environmental issues,” according to a 2015 Global CSR study. Then, of course, there are your employees. When employees fully trust the leadership in the company—believe their individual effort is impactful this means they are engaged. Engaged employees are more willing to work harder, later, and stretch the mind’s creativeness for the goals of the company. Still, in 2017, 51% of the workforce is reported to be “not engaged,” according to Gallup.  

Statistics aside, the bottom line is people. To use the hackneyed analogy, just as a house is only as strong as its foundation. A corporation is only as strong as its people. Forget buzzwords, productivity levels, and brand voice for a second. Dive into what really makes any company perform—the people. Employees from the bottom up all need to be on the same page. It’s easier to train an employee to learn a skillset than to teach a great attitude. Developing and fostering a healthy company culture takes an active systematic approach.

This article explores both famous examples, and how Splash and Dash has built a company culture that makes the smiles on our customer’s faces match the ones on our own.

Define Your Company Culture

Whether a CEO or a janitor, knowing an organization’s core values and beliefs is vital. Employees that are conscious of the culture they work in develop a sense of pride and solidarity in those amiable values. Write these values down. Once tangibly written, these statements become less of a sentiment and more of a manifesto. These ideals will be upheld and will last as time goes on and leadership changes. For instance, Google has a written company value that says, “You can be serious without a suit.” The company’s four-word dress code translation, “You must wear clothes.” Simple.

Clearly, not every organization is going to take the same liberal approach that Googleplex exercises, but the idea is to guide your employees. This applies to small business too. I once walked into the burrito franchise Chipotle to have my meal made by a team of singing college kids. The employees were literally singing. Of course, Chipotle doesn’t have ‘mandatory singing’ written down its constitution, but one the thing that was apparent, is that these employees were happy. This means Chipotle is encouraging a work-environment that promotes happiness. Enjoying the workplace is an infectious feeling that can do more for customers than a great tasting burrito.

Brainstorming your company culture begins at exploring purpose. What does your organization do, and what are its means of doing this? This needs to be organic and believable. It can’t be a few catchy lines of idealism. Company culture needs to carried out through action.

Splash and Dash Groomerie & Boutique, is at the surface level, a pet franchise. Yet if you walked into a store you would see that it is so much more than that. The company’s communication streams are simple and unified. Anyone who walks into a location can tangibly see company culture in effect. For franchise owners, Splash and Dash is the blueprint to making their dreams become reality, the way for them to quit a job they weren’t happy in and own something they are proud to have built. For customers, Splash and Dash is the convenient place that provides for their dog’s care, needs, and happiness. For the doggie clients, Splash and Dash is a luxurious day spa that cleans and pam pers. The takeaway from every party involved are apparent in the smiles and experience of being inside a Splash and Dash Groomerie & Boutique.

Take a stroll through your company’s offices, do you like what you see? Are your employees inspired? Is there a creative buzz floating in the air?

Leading by Example

The biggest proponent of company culture are the leaders of that company. Culture is carved around its leaders. No one wants to work for or be led by a hypocrite. Genuine values need to be reflected in management, CEOs, and board of directors. In a small business, it’s showing your employees that core values aren’t just reciting a mission statement, it’s how leaders treat their people. Harboring a trustful relationship between your employees is easier than one might think.

The first step is transparency. Be honest with your employees and they will return the confidence. Reviewing company goals and how on track the company is with these goals shows your employees their role in ensuring these goals are met—how and why their position matters. Never be deceptive. This undermines the trust and morale your people will have with you.

Encourage questions and suggestions from everyone. One of the strengths of Splash and Dash is the continuum of ideas that strive for perfection. If any employee, or franchise owner, has an idea to better the business’s methods, the company trials this idea. If it works, it stays. For this to work without disruption takes open-mindedness and apt communication.

These ideals of supporting communication extend to customers. Built into Splash and Dash’s terminal software are both formal and informal surveys that ensure that customers are 100% satisfied with their Splash and Dash experience. Guaranteed in the founder’s promise, is that when customers report dissatisfaction, not only do shop owners use this feedback as a means to improve, the company extends collaborative efforts toward customers to make amends. Every customer is promised 100% satisfaction guaranteed. This is and will always be upheld. Communication happens on the shop-location level face-to-face between employees and customers. On the company-wide level, this happens with built-in software that assures no customer slips through the cracks and walks away unhappy.

Insight into your company’s Ethos shows that leaders in the company practice what they preach. The respectability of leaders trickle down the corporate ladder and soon the entirety of the company is unified in its culture.

The Design of Your Company

Communicating your company culture does require the holistic efforts of the company to act out core values and live by them, but displaying company culture is also conveyed in design.

An example from the pet industry is the design of the Banfield Pet Hospital’s campus. To support the company’s Pets-At-Work program (PAWS), the campus was designed as an interconnected building linked together by walking trails. The work-site also includes an 18-acre wifi-enabled outdoor workspace, three-story dog ramps, and a leash color-code system. Banfield built their offices strategically. They wanted employees to bring in their dogs to reduces stress and promote morale. The design of the building also encourages collaboration and for employees to take those necessary breaks for adjusted posture, reduced eye strain, and avoid chances of developing Carpal Tunnel.

Compare Banfield’s physical schematic with the titans of the fast-food industry. Countless research has suggested that the color red incites hunger while yellow has cheery and exciting psychological connotations. This could explain why dozens of fast food franchises use the contrasting yellow and red color palettes to lure customers in. This psychology behind fast food industry design has become known as the Ketchup and Mustard theory. The idea is that as we eat, colors are subconsciously making us feel a warm and loving sensation reinforcing brand loyalty. These feelings are the projected company culture that fast food restaurants want us to associate with their experience.

Company culture and brand are different things but rely on each other for the same effect. Google has changed its logo and font seven times since 1997 but has always maintained the same company culture. The variance in logo demonstrates the symbolic changes the company is making and gives the company a new ‘feel’ and user experience. This reinforces Google’s value to, “Focus on the user and all else will follow.”

Implementing a re-vamped company design doesn’t necessarily mean construction to make your offices more ‘open’ and building a slide from the marketing department to accounting. Ask yourself, “What is the best place to conduct meetings? What should be the focal point during a meeting? What is the best space for creativity? How’s the lighting in the office? Does the arrangement of your small business, headquarters, or start-up contribute for a team effort or do employees look like gears in a productivity machine?

Final Decisions

Don’t over think it. Developing company culture should be a natural process. Get the minds of your colleagues together to discuss what is important to them. Brainstorm and draft some of these ideas and know that company culture is not finite. As your business progresses so will the people in it, and at the crux of culture are the people.


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