'A' Culture Rated

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When you’ve become obsessive about the notion of culture and how it can impact a business like yours or mine, I’m not sure there is a better place to go for a definition than to a sociologist or a cultural anthropologist. After all, the notion of culture is what they’re supposed to be all about.

Unfortunately, I don’t know many cultural anthropologists. In fact, I don’t know any. At least, I don’t think I do. However, I am married to a sociologist, so I asked her. Her reply was nothing if not predictable: “I’ll tell you what I told the kids when they were little and asked questions like that: Look it up!” So, I did.

I was fascinated to discover something I probably should have recognized from the beginning: I wasn’t going to be satisfied with the answer regardless of what it was. You see, nothing fit; or, at least, nothing fit the way I wanted it to. So, I decided to try to define this on my own because I’m convinced that you cannot run a business that is both successful and sustainable—without understanding what culture is really all about.

Before we engage in a conversation about the nature of culture and what it means, I thought I’d stop for just a moment and explain exactly what I meant by a business model that is both successful and sustainable; why I coupled successful and sustainable together for this discussion.  

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You see, after careful consideration, a fair amount of research and a lifetime of experience, I’m not sure you can achieve both without a clear understanding of who you are and what you and your organization are all about. You can’t do it without creating and crafting a culture that works for you, your clients and everyone else involved in your organization.

Sure, you might achieve a small amount of success without that understanding despite yourself. But, I’m not sure you will achieve the level of success you’re capable of without it. And, as far as sustainability is concerned, I am quite certain whatever you accomplish will not carry forward into the future unless everyone involved in the company knows and understands why they are there, how they serve the needs of your clients and customers, what they have to do to get that done and why any of it is important to anyone but you.

I believe culture is the tangible manifestation of your purpose, passion, beliefs and values as understood and demonstrated by everyone in your organization as they interact with each other and/or anyone else. That means a consistency of action that flows through your organization, fueled by a set of shared principles and values that are constant and incontrovertible: principles and values that guide the daily operation of the business and everyone associated with it whether you are there or not.

For that to occur, everyone has to know—not know as in be aware, but know as in having achieved a deep understanding of—exactly what the passion, purpose, beliefs, values and principles are all about.

For that to occur, you not only have to know that, you must find a way to make that passion compelling, your purpose clear, your beliefs obvious, your values transcendent and your principles inviolate.

When that happens there is no question about what needs to be done; it’s clear. And why it needs to be done is so obvious, no one needs to be told; everyone knows.

To create a culture that works for you and your company, someone has to ACTUATE. To do that, you’ve got to create Awareness of what your passion, purpose, beliefs and desired behaviors are all about. You have to foster open and honest Communication, bi-directional communication throughout the company. You’ve got to Transmit these critical concepts from theory to reality clearly and completely. You must promote Understanding at every level and embrace Action, the willingness and determination to make things happen rather than wait for them to happen. You have to Transform current behaviors into future successes and you can only do this if you are willing and able to lead by Example, and not just by the power of your words.

If and when you are successful, these powerful beliefs and behaviors—this captivating culture—will carry your company into the future with the kind of confidence that comes from everyone working in unison to achieve a set of common goals and objectives designed to ensure that everyone involved has the benefit of a secure and stable future.

When your values, principles and beliefs are accepted and shared by everyone in the company and reflect who and what you believe your company is all about, you can finally say that everyone involved in your company is acculturated and that the company itself has been, “A” Culture Rated.

Mitch Schneider is a fourth-generation auto repair professional and the owner of Schneider’s Auto Repair in Simi Valley, Calif. He is an industry educator, author, seminar facilitator, and blogger at mitchschneidersworld.com. Contact him at mschneider@ratchetandwrench.com.

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