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You Can’t Fake Company Culture

Article by:

Tom Turner
EO Nashville
Tom Turner - EO Nashville

In 1998, Enron executives wanted to entice investors with their newly created commodity trading center, Enron Energy Services. They played host to a group of Wall Street analysts who walked through a room filled with giant television screens, computers and employees making deals over the phone. Sounds incredible, right? Unfortunately, this "command center" was a fake— the computers weren't hooked up to anything and there weren't buyers on the phones. It was a ruse; a carefully rehearsed production designed to fool the eye and open the checkbook.

When you're looking at a new vendor or an outside firm to work with, you tend to see only what they want to show you. Scratch below the surface, though, and who knows what you'll find. That's why if a company makes an authentic and positive impression on employees and clients, the business should be acclaimed. In my experience, a well-established and people-oriented company culture is a major selling point to potential clients; happy and engaged employees work harder, produce better work and provide better service to all. It's something you can't fake. How can you demonstrate that your own corporate culture isn't a mirage?

Appoint a culture leader. Companies that want to convey a clear, concise message on culture will likely have a point-person leading the charge. This person will be totally aligned with the core values of the company and help establish the tone for internal and external communications. It is difficult to claim you truly prioritize the culture of your organization if there isn't a dedicated position for the role of culture leader. Culture cannot be something that's discussed once a month in your executive meetings. It takes commitment and must be worked on every day. Outside businesses and customers identify the culture of your business from the moment they walk in your front door, so it’s important you’re communicating the message you want to send.

Spread the word. There is only so much you can demonstrate over the phone, or even in a quick walk-through. However, you can do great things with interactive and shareable content. Consider creating videos, GIFs and newsletters to show off your culture and the benefits of working with your company. These can also be shared with potential clients and outside firms to demonstrate the best parts of your business.

Take it outside. A great way to demonstrate how your company culture adheres to your core values is by participating in community service or outreach programs. Get out in the world and do something as a team that benefits others; ideally, something that everyone will enjoy doing. In my experience, inviting potential clients and outside firms to participate—or even challenging them to some friendly competition—goes a long way toward establishing your company as one that stands out from the fakes of the business world.

Start at the top. To maintain a lasting and thriving culture, ensure it is flowing from the top down. It starts with the leaders of your business— they shouldn't just "buy into" the idea of culture; they should be the ones driving it. When that happens, your culture can be both awesome and authentic. If culture is not part of the organizational core, it's just synthetic and unnecessary. When culture is inherent to your company, you will see it lived out by people throughout the organization, and manifested in your strategy and business decisions.

With a great company culture, "look how hard we work" takes a backseat to "look how great we work together." Companies that take the time to create a workspace devoted to employee development, morale and retention are going to be more productive partners than those who want to show you a room full of people yelling false trade orders into phones.

Tom Turner is an EO Nashville member, as well as the executive chairman and steward of purpose of DSi, an eDiscovery and digital-forensics services company. He is also a contributor to EO’s Inc.com partnership portal, where this article was originally published. Contact Tom at tturner@dsicovery.com.​​​​​​​​​​​

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