What do you value? If you are reading this, you work at a business, or perhaps run a business, and within that sphere, certain articles hold value. First, ask what you value at work. Do you value your paycheck? Do you value your co-workers? Do you value the coffee machine? Do you value your email inbox; the tidier, the better?
Look beyond yourself, next. What is the unique ingredient, or ingredients, baked into your company’s every action, raising your holistic incorporation up to the business world with declarative purpose?
“This is what we’re proud to be about!” — a person with a company culture
(The 90’s were a long time ago, it’s okay to like stuff again. Irony is a spineless man’s game.)
For example, HubSpot Academy’s purpose is: “to educate and inspire people so that we, together, transform the way the world does business.”
From that sentence, you could fold back the origami leaves to reveal a series of governing values and principles that we won’t go into today, because it all cascades out from the central purpose written above, and that’s what we’re going to discuss. That is today's focus: crafting, or recognizing, your culture.
It feels obvious to say your company needs a defined culture, however it is critical, and more provocative, to consider WHY you need that definition. What are the exact advantages of having a definite answer to a sorta-vague questions around your company’s “purpose” and “culture?” Aren’t those just publicity-buzzwords that companies Facebook and Google use to win headlines and lure children into their gingerbread houses—uh, I mean, hire talented employees?
Billion-dollar valuations? Planet-changing purpose? Companies painted as somewhat PURPOSELESS at a time (2004, AD) now crystallizing before our eyes?
Something’s up with this culture thing. Your culture sends out ripples into your work, your management, your staffing and hiring, your clients, your planning for the future, and your style. It is not impossible to understand strong culture's tangible value. It is not impossible to make strong culture tangible.
Why does a business need a definite, defined culture?
Persuading savvy business owners that your staff should operate on the same wavelength requires no persuasion at all. For instance, if this here HubSpot blog post suggested to you, a HubSpot customer, that your company should agree upon one instant messaging app at work to increase productivity, it’d be greeted with a granite-hard “no, duh” groan. So let’s start at the “no, duh” and work our way up from there. Betcha we don’t make a taxing logic jump between here and there!
Consider this: a strong, company-wide culture code helps everyone think the same way and keep pulling in the same direction. It’s the instant messaging software for our collective soul.
It's the protein that makes the company grow!
So far, so “duh.”
Time to take a moment to clarify that by no means does this suggest you should only surround yourself with people who think identically to you, or coerce others to think like you. Rather, compose your company of people who recognize your passion, and whose own passion you recognize yourself.
After all, game recognizes game, as we always say.
Just like that, we’re getting somewhere on why a strong, shared culture is important:
- Driven by mutual passion, above all else
- Better communication
- Keener hiring
When you hire better, you open up the opportunities for leaner, hungrier teams, as well as an acute awareness for WHEN you should hire and scale up. Abundant research tells us that on a business- or agency-level, while talents and workplace skills can be taught, mutually-recognizable passion is the greatest commodity. Rules and culture simply align those passions.
When we talk about “rules,” we don’t mean, “thou shalt not prop thine dank Doc Martens up on mine desk!” We mean more, “we’re going to deliver exceptional work, and charge what it’s worth, because it’s worth a lot to us.” The kind of rules that you define for operating alongside the rest of the world and the people you interact with therein.
To go about it any other way would sound like lunacy, right?
You need a foundational culture so a shared purpose for the company’s existence does not suffer unproductive debate, nor does it leave you straying, aimless. You want it to radiate from the center to all points of the company. That is why.
How to compose your agency culture.
Look at your own brain. Return to the source. Remember when we asked “what is your company’s purpose?”
Look in there and you’ll figure out how to compose your culture. Be warned, it will take time; weeks, likely even longer. Here are a few tips to give you a boost:
- Why did this business come into being? Was the original objective to provide a premium product or service than what existed prior? A more efficient solution? To enter an open, blue ocean market? To do good business locally? It’s tricky, but fit it into one sentence. You’ll have to re-write it a few times. This won’t happen immediately. In fact, let’s segue into the next point.
- Based upon your company’s purpose for being, make a list of three governing principles. Again, one sentence each for these. Each sentence should begin with a verb (like a line-item on a resume). These are the notes that you put in front of any new hire to test if they have the same spark you do. These notes will guide your one-sentence purpose toward tangibility. In time, the principles may grow into a list of seven. It may shrink to only one. Strike a balance.
- Put the principles practice. Yes, they will take time to fully form. Do not let that deter you. Form them, update them, add to them, and, in a stunning turn of affairs that will shock the the global community, actually use them. You’ve gotta use them. Recite them to prospective customers. Share them with current customers. If their face gives you a screwed-up look in response, happily tell them what your purpose means.
To provide example, HubSpot values five attributes in people while hiring. You’ll notice these do not call out exact skills or background, instead valuing personality traits:
- Humble. Modest, despite being honest. Self-aware and respectful. The very best people are self-aware and self-critical—not arrogant. Humble people will share credit when things go well. Humble people will shoulder responsibility when things go poorly.
- Effective. Owns it. Watch them move the needle. Gawk as the needle is buried beyond measurable value. Effective people are predisposed to action. Effective people act. Effective people own.
- Adaptable. Always changing. Always learning.
- Remarkable. You remark on them. They are intangible in smarts, creativity, and resourcefulness.
- Transparent. Open and honest with others and with themselves.
You know why this is important and how to get rolling on the task at hand. Let’s direct our attention to what a strong culture is on the highest, most tangible level.
What precisely qualifies as a company’s culture?
In the above portions of this post, we discussed why culture is valuable and what goes into a concerted culture-crafting effort. Now, what makes all that effort quantifiable? Beyond sharing it with your employees, and your prospects, and your customers, share that culture code with the world!
Once you have a build of your culture code, stack it in a slide deck and load them onto a site like Slideshare for others to explore. Successful HubSpot partners including New Breed and Quintain have done so, demonstrating thought-leadership, judging by how many people have clipped slides from them.
Culture is an intangible value that you can control that will inevitably manifest in a valuation that an external force places upon your work.
“Value is intrinsic. It’s based on value we create for our customers, and how that ultimately translates into revenue, growth, and (eventually) profits.” — Dharmesh Shah, February 22, 2016
Dharmesh composed and maintains the HubSpot Culture Code. A copy of the current deck detailing the HubSpot Culture Code is available on Slideshare. It stands somewhere around version 20.0 at this point. If you'll recall, we are a perpetual work in progress.
You create a definite culture, then you have value you can command. When you command value, you can bring that value to your customers. That value yields growth, and growth yields profits.
If you are aware and control what you value, the right people will get it. Your employees will get it and want to work hard for you. Your customers will get it and throw more money at you. Then your valuation in the marketplace will rise.
A company’s culture = stability = growth = customer services = happy customers, happy company