I found myself staring at the Cafe Ladro, the coffee bar at the bottom of the Bellevue Expedia building at 7:00am this past Tuesday morning and asking myself a number of questions. I asked, “Why did I leave my warm bed at 6:00am to come listen to someone speak about corporate identity? Do I really care about corporate identity as a small business?” And most importantly, “Why would I bother to read the menu, when I know the answer this early is ALWAYS a 2 shot espresso!” The answer to all of these questions was that I had been invited to attend an on Morning Managers MeetingCompany Culture: How to define it, defend it and liberate it. I was excited, I had the chance to listen to Kristin Graham, vice president of engagement and communications at Expedia Inc.
If you haven’t yet had the opportunity to listen to Kristin Graham speak then I strongly suggest that you find her at the next KOL panel and take a seat. She is dynamic and excited about corporate culture, which is more than most professionals can say. She is also a natural public speaker who is very intelligent and sometimes gets a little over-excited: she may curse in the middle of a presentation. The latter is my personal favorite. But all of this is a reflection of how passionate she is about her work.
During her presentation she made two points that stood out to me. The first was that “the culture of an organization is embodied by the people working there.” When you are looking for a way to define the culture, you need only to look to your colleagues. This a point that many of us boutique agencies fail to grasp, and why so many of the creative agencies tend to go under or completely change after the founding partners retire or quit. A statistic states that almost “90% (of businesses) are out of business at the end of five years.” While this statistic applies to all business in general, it isn’t hard to imagine this happening for much the same reason across many industries- no one has defined the businesses culture. It is safe to say that any boutique agency that is interested in outliving the senior management needs to be memorable to clients as an agency that has more than just the best people. It needs to develop a corporate identity that will not only interest future clients, but also entice and inspire new employees.
The second thing that Kristin discussed in her presentation that made me sit up and take notice was that culture is the set of behavioral patterns that is encouraged or accepted by leadership. In essence, it is what a company will hire or fire over, which means when you are defining what your corporate culture is, do not misrepresent yourself or your company. When you begin to develop and define your company’s culture, start by asking yourself that key question. And realize that corporate culture is something that evolves with time and it isn’t something that you always find on a poster.
In our next post we will provide some simple definitions about what corporate culture is and provide some examples of well-known cultures.
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