Why Culture Matters


A company culture impacts the bottom line in surprising ways

Posted on August 28, 2017

Company culture is everything.

It determines how long people work, how productive those hours are, and how much they enjoy doing it. Company culture dictates the amount of creativity workers are allowed to put into their work. It says how long meetings are, how many are scheduled, and whether or not they start on time and involve preparation.

So much what a company does and is involves this intangible, difficult-to-define thing we call culture.

Culture is set from the top by CEOs and their first five hires. At this point is ingrained, difficult to change without some real intervention from this group of founders. The reason is every subsequent hire will model his or her behavior after them. That list of behavior will have broad impacts on the future of the business. Again, that list is:

Meetings

  • Do they start on time?
  • Do they end on time?
  • Do people come prepared?
  • How many are scheduled?
  • How long are they scheduled?
  • Is there any follow-up to the meeting?
  • Is there an agenda and is it adhered to?

Work hours

  • Do people arrive on time?
  • How many breaks do people take?
  • How long are lunches?
  • How often are people interrupted during the day?
  • How loud is the office?
  • How accountable are people to their teams and managers?

Non-work hours

  • How responsive are people to after-hours crises?
  • How late do people send and respond to emails?
  • Do people come into the office on weekends?
  • How often do people take vacations, and how much work is done on vacations?
  • How casual are people with each other at after-hours work events?
  • What's the expectation about drinking, smoking, or taking recreational drugs around coworkers?
  • Is drinking, smoking, or taking recreational drugs allowed in the office?

There are no right or wrong answers to these questions. It all depends on what the founders' goals are. A company determined to win at all costs would probably shun the informal behavior. It might be run more like a boot camp. A lifestyle business without external investors and no pressure to win the market might be far more casual.

Do the founders want to win at all costs or do they want to have fun? It's matter of preference. A word of caution, though. Usually the two don't mix very well. Cultures that try to do both end up doing neither very well and it can cause burnout to be both work hard and play hard all the time.

Culture matters because it answers these questions and sets the expectations of the employees at the company. Employees will look for the queues whether they're written down and spoken about or not, so it's best to be explicit. The CEO should set the rules, embody them, and be true to him or herself in order to prevent confusing among the ranks.