Tom Turner, an Entrepreneurs' Organization (EO) member from Nashville, is the co-founder and steward of purpose of DSi, one of the nation's leading providers of advanced electronic discovery and digital forensics services. We asked Tom how company culture can help businesses generate new clients. Here's what he had to say:
In 1998, Enron executives wanted to entice investors with their newly created commodity trading center, Enron Energy Services (EES). 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 and taking trades over the phone.
The trouble was that this "command center" analysts were touring was a fake - the computers weren't hooked up to anything, and there weren't buyers on the other end of 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 potential new vendor or an outside firm to work with, you tend to see 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, positive impression upon employees and clients, the business should be acclaimed.
A well-established and forward-thinking company culture is a major selling point to potential clients, and it's something you can't fake. But why should an outside company care about your company culture? A vibrant and people-oriented company culture benefits those outside the company because happy, engaged employees work harder, produce better work and provide better service to clients and vendors.
Should a potential partner really care if you have a stocked break room and ping pong tables? Maybe not. What they should care about is existing programming that helps your employees grow professionally and personally, allowing them to work as a team and to become more happy and productive in their everyday roles.
How can you demonstrate that your corporate culture isn't a mirage? What are the signs of a vibrant, people-centered, successful company culture?
- 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 will 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 every month, or every quarter, 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 make sure your company is 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. But you can do great things with interactive, shareable content. Consider creating videos, GIFs and newsletters to show off your culture and the benefits of working with your company. These can 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 everyone enjoys doing. Inviting potential clients and other 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.
- Remain authentic throughout. 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 in all areas of the company and manifested in your company's 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 time and resources 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. In the end, a successful company culture will attract the right employees - those who are best suited for your company - and will make it easier to attract the right customers - those who you want to work with and who want to work with you.