It’s easy for others to copy your products and services, but it's much harder for them to copy your culture, that's why it's your competitive advantage.
When I work with my clients on improving their Brand, one of the aspects that I always consider is Company Culture. It's part of my 5 point system for creating a Valuable brand:
- V - Visuals (Design Assets such as logo, colours, typography, photography and website)
- A - Atmosphere (Company Culture behind the scenes)
- L - Language (Branding Communication across all media both online and in person)
- U - Understanding (Pinpointing the emotional needs of your customers)
- E - Experience (Creating a memorable and immersive experience for the customer)
Without a strong culture, the people that work for you are less likely to be motivated to give exceptional customer service, one of the hallmarks of any successful business.
Just look at Disney. Anyone you meet who has experienced any Disney store or attraction will always remark on how amazing the staff are.
This isn't an accident, their culture is so strong that it attracts brilliant people who love going above and beyond to make sure customers have an unforgettable experience.
If you consistently provide your customers with exceptional customer service and create memorable experiences, they'll keep coming back, will tell others and will always pay full price.
This is why it's so important to cultivate a strong and infectious company culture.
With a strong culture it is easier to set and more importantly maintain high standards that are consistently met no matter how large your company grows. Speaking of growth, having a strong company culture makes it easier not only to retain your best employees, but also attract even better ones.
It's not easy for me to offer specific advice as each company is very different, but what I want to showcase some examples of strategies that you could try in your business.
Doing a Ferris
As I mentioned in a previous article, I always recommend staff taking a Ferris Bueller Day Off. The advantages are all about gaining rest, perspective and doing something that makes you a better person for colleagues, your family and for yourself.
In 1974, 3M scientist Art Fry came up with a clever invention. He thought if he could apply an adhesive (dreamed up by colleague Spencer Silver several years earlier) to the back of a piece of paper, he could create the perfect bookmark. He called it the Post-It Note.
What you might not know is that Fry came up with the now iconic product (he talks to the Smithsonian about it here) during his "15 percent time," a program at 3M that allows employees to use a portion of their paid time to chase rainbows and hatch their own ideas.
Joint Coffee Breaks
In her TED Talk, Margaret Heffernan talks about companies that have banned coffee cups at desks because they want people to hang out around the coffee machines and talk to each other. According to Heffernan, The Swedes even have a special term for this. They call it Fika, which means more than a coffee break. It means collective restoration.
The reason why it's important is because it fosters trust and support in work colleagues, also know as Social Capital. Social Capital is vital to successful problem solving and dealing with adversity.
When Alex Pentland suggested to one very large company that they synchronise coffee breaks so that people would have time to talk to each other, profits went up 15 million dollars, and employee satisfaction went up 10 percent. That's not a bad return on such an easy to implement and low cost strategy.
Brentford Role Swap
When I was Creative Director of Brentford Football Club' s Academy, I worked with Academy Manager Ose Aibangee at using stand up comedy to improve the presentation skills of the coaches.
I looked at other industries and realised that a half time team talk is very similar to a stand up set. The coaches have to be able to read the room, speak with conviction and project confidence through their body language and tone of voice.
The exercise was unusual, but fun and memorable. Sometimes it's good to shake things up and step away from the routine and out of your comfort zone. Being able to look at other industries and cherry pick what they do well to enhance what you do, is a valuable exercise as the results at Brentford proved.
Attica is one of the best restaurants in the world, but it wasn't always like that. When award winning Chef Ben Shewry first took over, he struggled to stay afloat and was very close to going out of business onmultiple occasions. If you watch his episode of Chef's Table you learn that one of the most innovative things he started that had a transformative effect on the success of the business, was to start Development Tuesdays.
Every Tuesday Ben will sit down with all of his staff and experiment with new dishes. Nobody knows what they will be, but he encourages everyone involved to taste and contribute. This is very clever as not only has it produced some of Attica's signature dishes, but the staff all love the way he listens to them and respects what they have to say.
He is empowering his staff, building a stronger culture and pushing the boundaries of cooking, keeping Attica at the forefront of food innovation and THE place to work for any aspiring chef in Australia.
To sum up:
Traditionally a business will invest in new technology, the latest equipment or perhaps opening a new office. All of which is very important if they want to continue to grow, but I feel that the first place that any investment should be made is in the culture.
Culture is what drives businesses forward, attracts the best talent and makes it responsive to economic change. All of the suggestions mentioned were very cost effective and relatively straightforward to implement and maintain.
So next time you have to opportunity to invest in your business, try the staff before the stationery.
I love bringing Brands to Life and helping businesses improve their company culture is just one of the ways I do this. I'd love to come and chat with you about improving the culture of your business.