Over the last few weeks, I’ve read a number of articles on the culture of businesses and the role of the CEO as Chief Psychologist. I love the subject, I’ve read Delivering Happiness ten times over and still I can’t get enough of it. Given that it’s something which affects all companies, their staff and consumers – it’s still an area that is often done badly and worse still, over-engineered.
Who wants to be in my gang?
With the rise of the cool company, more offices than ever before are boasting shiny gadgets, games rooms and beer in the fridge to entice the very coolest kids to their working bunch. I’ve personally worked for a number of companies and don’t get me wrong it’s great. But it’s only great if it’s heart felt and genuine.
Building a business strategy around creating a cool culture is one that, in my opinion, will never succeed. Yes you can have your staff sitting comfortably in a lovely Aeron chair and the latest version of the iPhone in their mitts – but ultimately if it’s not in your core, not what you believe, not what you live and breath – it will never be sustainable.
Clock in. Clock out
To be seen as one of the cool web crowd, founders have stopped dropping vowels from their names and have taken to trying to create really cool working spaces with a “different vibe”. Whilst this is fabulous and beers will never be turned down, the shine starts to tarnish if the culture isn’t sewn through every part of the business. For example, enforcing a strict 9am-5pm regime to a non-customer facing role, when as part of your culture you’d be wanting them to focus on getting the job in hand done (often burning the midnight oil in the lead up to product releases) will start to cause a jar and the strain will begin to show.
Similarly, if you want to become a genuinely transparent company and to give your teams a voice – you can guide them, you can lead by example but you can’t control what they say. Ultimately, if you’re making the right hires for the culture of the business, you shouldn’t have to worry. Nobody is perfect, consumers want to know that there are humans behind the brand and sometimes that means them discovering your staff went for drinks on a school night – they probably do the same too.
Stop shouting, start doing
Not only are many companies now really good at creating their own ecosystems, they’re becoming bloody great at shouting about them. Self promotion has never been easier thanks to the likes of Twitter, Facebook and multiple video and photo sharing platforms.
Whilst this is amazing for communicating your culture and aiding recruitment, unless you really are living the life you’re selling, this can do more damage than good. Nothing worse than someone turning up to work at a weenie startup and being forced to create board packs and Powerpoint presentations (yuck!). Whilst you’ll get great people on board initially, they won’t become your advocates and essentially aren’t likely to stick around for as long as you’d like.
Whilst you’re trying to stay cool, you’ll always be chasing for something outside of your control – after all “cool” changes and is very different in different people’s eyes. However, if you live by your “company karma” (I’ve just coined that phrase btw), this IS in your control and will be very hard to deviate from. Initially it will come from your core – the people that know what you’re trying to achieve and how you’re going to achieve it – but in time, through hires that fit, you’ll have a solid base for your company and all of the decisions that you make.
Of course, some of these decisions may challenge the norm, some people may think that you’re crazy, some people will tell you that they’d do things differently – but you’ll be confident in your choices, knowing that they’re right for you and your teams, after all, it’s come from your heart.
The companies that I really respect are those entirely focussed on producing amazing products, not those trying to be cool. That’s not something you can manufacture.
I’d love to hear your views on what makes a company successful, what culture means to you and how you think it’s sustainable as businesses grow. Please use the comments below and I promise I’ll respond
One last thought
The cost of a Macbook Pro: £1,649.00.
The cost of a pool table: £1,950.00
The cost of an iPhone 4: £499.00
A sense of belonging and passion: Priceless.