Reg Lascaris, a truly great entrepreneur in the advertising world and co-founder of Hunt Lascaris, which later became TBWA, once told me that culture eats strategy for breakfast.

It wasn’t his golden nugget. It’s a famous quote from management guru and writer Peter Drucker, and has become the subject of numerous business books since then.

However, as we discussed the role of culture in business, it was clear that Reg had built his organisation on this key element, and it would later become one of the foundational pillars of Sorbet’s success as well.

Your business’s success begins with your culture

Every business’s culture will be unique, and needs to be based on a guiding principle, often referred to as the company’s North Star. In Sorbet’s case, we wanted to create a culture that was built to serve. This meant that as the leaders of the business we needed to serve our people, so that they in turn served our customers. This formed the foundation of our Higher Purpose.

To achieve this, we needed to create a ‘caring and sharing’ culture:

  • Caring is showing concern or kindness to others
  • Sharing is to partake of, use, experience, occupy or enjoy with others.

These became the core of what we wanted the internal experience of Sorbet to look and feel like.

If you really want to have great customer satisfaction, your customers will never be any happier than the people who are working within your company.

DANNY MYER
OWNER OF UNION SQUARE HOSPITALITY GROUP

Danny’s secret method of success is to ‘look for the eyes’. He believes that a customer’s eyes are always facing the direction your customer needs you to be. In the hospitality industry, this translates into scanning the room to see if a pair of eyes are looking at you, stopping what you are doing and seeing if there is something that customer needs.

What does this look like in your industry? How can you determine where your customer’s eyes are facing?

The key to getting your entire organization thinking this way and responding to your customers with a positive, caring and sharing mindset lies in the culture you create.

5 Ways to build a strong culture

It’s widely accepted that a business’s culture can add significant value to the building of a brand. But culture lies in how it’s executed. Entrenching your desired culture into the hearts and minds of your people, especially when the philosophy behind the culture requires a significant change in attitude, requires a few key steps.

1. Hire people who love people.

Skills are of course important, but if you really want to build a service culture, you need to begin with people who love people and want to assist others. These people have an innate passion for service.

A culture that is based on caring and sharing will support them and provide an ideal foundation for their happiness in the workplace, but someone who doesn’t naturally love people will either not fit into your organization and leave, or they will need to be converted to a different way of doing business. In both cases, it is more successful to hire people who align with the culture you are building from the word go.

2. Base your culture on a Higher Purpose.

Your Higher Purpose is your reason for being. At Sorbet, it was to touch lives. The key is that whatever it means to you and your business, your Higher Purpose needs to touch your employees as much as it touches your customers.

Consider this: your marketing and values look outward. They focus on your customers, letting them know who you are and what your brand stands for. That’s all fine and well (and important), but who delivers that promise? Your employees. Which means they need to believe in it deeply as well. Basing your culture on a Higher Purpose embeds that purpose in daily activities and the mindset of your entire organization.

Related: Create a culture that’s built to serve people

3. Connect performance with culture.

This establishes quality standards for performance and links it to your culture and what the organization stands for. To achieve this, you need to ensure that your culture and Higher Purpose align, and that you have a strong ‘why’ that every rule and standard speaks to.

Ask why of every rule, key performance indicator, job role specification and task allocation. If it doesn’t align with your culture or deliver on your Higher Purpose, why does it exist in the first place?

4. Be consistent.

People need to know what to expect of their leaders, each other and the business as whole. I believe that the most successful leaders are Culture-Driven Leaders, which means culture is the foundation of absolutely everything else in the business.

As a Culture-Driven Leader, you should be delivering this on a daily basis. Consistency achieves two key things: First, your employees will feel safe. If you work in a predictable environment, you feel comfortable and secure making decisions. Second, if you are consistent as a leader, you are essentially leading by example, giving your employees a clear example of your culture in action. Nothing speaks louder than actions.

5. Base your culture on trust and respect.

Your culture will be unique to your organisation because it is based on your specific Higher Purpose, however, all cultures can be built on trust and respect. Every person in your business wants to be respected and feel a sense of belonging. The question is whether the business you are creating delivers this.

No great career ever started with a lack of self-belief, and yet we expect people to believe in themselves, the business and their ability to touch the lives of customers without giving them a place of trust and respect to operate within. How willing are you to give of yourself if you don’t feel respected or trust the people you’re working with?

A business built on trust and respect doesn’t mean shallow, ‘polite’ environments with no conflict. In fact, a completely conflict-free zone is completely unnatural given the nature of human beings. Instead, build an environment where different opinions are respected, and all of your team members feel comfortable voicing them without being aggressive or defensive.

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