Can company culture make or break your firm?
I recently had the privilege of joining my friend and the Chairman and CEO of Shaklee Corporation, Roger Barnett, at “Shaklee Live,” an annual conference to which Shaklee’s global sellers are invited. The content reminded me of my days as a student at Stanford’s Graduate School of Business, including principles instilled by labor economist Ed Lazear’s “Incentives and Productivity” course, Jim Lattin’s “Sales” course, and James Baron’s course on human resources/organizational behavior.
Simply put, company culture matters.
Roger Barnett started his keynote by reminding the auditorium of 10,000, “We are here because we have the power to change people’s lives from ordinary to amazing.” Barnett and the speakers that followed him continually underscored that Shaklee can be the vehicle to “unleash the potential of all human beings to ‘live amazing lives.’” As such, Barnett’s third great introduction of the day was the Shaklee “Bill of Rights.” In it, he articulates a worldview easy to want to embrace. Paraphrased, some key tenets include: unleashing your full potential; working to thrive, not just survive; being part of a community; making a positive impact on said community and the importance of giving back; living free of toxins and stress; experiencing the world; and “living younger, longer” (my personal favorite).
Beyond great products, great technology, and great credentials, what is the secret ingredient of success at this remarkable Fortune 500 company? Culture.
How does a strong corporate culture inspire intrinsically-motivated, passionate, loyal and dedicated team members?
- People need to be able to articulate the company’s vision clearly and succinctly. When your team can communicate the company’s vision clearly and succinctly, they are also more apt to be able to convert customers into brand advocates. Companies like Social Chorus have built businesses based upon this concept — and Social Chorus CEO Gregory Shove will be the first to remind that your employees are your most important brand advocates. Shaklee calls the payoff of being a member of its community the “Shaklee Effect.” This is a perfect example of a clear and repeatable vision statement translated into a tagline.
- People want to be surrounded by colleagues and co-workers who share their values. A value of Team Bottlenotes has always been exceptionally hard work. For this reason, I would rally our troops to “team workouts” once or twice a year with a hard-charging athletic coach. Whether we were doing relay races or running the stadium stairs, the act of rooting each other on created bonds that translated into the workplace, yielding a more interdependent team, a stronger work ethic and better results.
- People want to be celebrated for their successes. Whether encouraging the 120 “master coordinators” to participate in a parade or sharing photos of top performers who earned trips to Maui or Los Cabos, Shaklee does a masterful job of celebrating and rewarding its members’ successes. As I observed at the conference, this public acknowledgment inspires all to want to continue to succeed and/or reach these new heights in their own performances.
- People want to be part of an organization with clear goals. When driving toward a new milestone metric in terms of email sign-ups or Facebook fans, or working to reach a new net profitability goal for Bottlenotes events, our team members have rallied the most for each other at Bottlenotes when inches away from a new goal — a goal shared company-wide — of which everyone was aware and wanted to see the company achieve.
- People want to be part of a company that delivers a “double bottom line.” This encompasses both profit as well as impact (local and global). Whether planting five million trees to celebrate their “zero net environmental impact” or their ongoing use of plant-based, GMO-free proteins, Shaklee nails this pillar of culture.
We hear lots of stories of Silicon Valley-area companies with strong cultures. I had the privilege of speaking at Zappos.com’s CEO Tony Hsieh’s “Catalyst Week” and attending Zappos’ quarterly off-site retreat. Zappos also nails culture — and thus drives extremely loyal, engaged and committed team members to work hard in an otherwise commoditized category (and in an up-and-coming geographic location).
Company culture holds the power to inspire employees to move themselves, to move mountains, and to support each other in a way that, when done right, is truly irreplaceable. And if you top it off with market-leading products supported by great technology, culture seems to be the most defensible competitive advantage of them all.
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