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Do you know what it is?

Close enough: it’s company culture.

The most important thing in any company

Whenever I heard stories about the importance of corporate culture as a student, I thought it was some sort of academic baloney. I would think that customers just pay for your product/service, and that’s it. They got what they wanted, you made some money, and everybody’s happy.  Culture? Who cares!

They got what they wanted, you made some money, and everybody’s happy. Culture? Who cares!

I couldn’t be more wrong than that.

Eventually, I realized that culture is the single most important thing in a company because it includes the values and all the rules that govern the behavior of the employees. These behaviors are contagious and directly impact the quality of products and/or services that a company provides. Lack of corporate culture leads to having employees who place their self-interest over the company they work for.

These behaviors are contagious and directly impact the quality of products and/or services that a company provides. Lack of corporate culture leads to having employees who place their self-interest over the company they work for.

I had a chance to work at 2 different businesses, and here’s what I observed:

At a service company

At a management consulting firm, it is obvious from the start whether a company has a strong culture. Besides getting a chance to work with smart and ambitious people, there are unwritten rules that everybody follows and that keep the working standards and ethics high.

You and your colleagues would always attempt to deliver the best work because your team trusts you to do this. Working long hours and after midnight together with your team just because you all know that the presentation can be improved and you believe top quality is a must, not an option.

At one point, myself and 3 other colleagues were preparing to leave the office at around 11pm when we saw two others working hard on a task that had to be done by next morning. We all stayed and helped until 4am. But what was impressive is that none of us even debated on whether we should go home or stay and help. It was not even our project and it was not our job to stay, but it was the culture that made us make this decision.

At a manufacturing company

While culture might be easier understood at service companies, its role might be perceived as inferior at manufacturing companies by some. It is all about the end product on a conveyor, right?

This type of thinking does not take into account that the culture of workers is directly reflected in the quality of the product. Here’s a pair of examples: the negligence of one single line worker in the final product testing has almost cost the company an important deal with a big client. Here’s another one: the expensive equipment breaking down simply due to a lack of interest from the maintenance guy.

These sorts of quality issues in manufacturing are almost never related to “is the employee capable of doing the job?”, but more to his mentality and understanding that everyone plays a role in the success of the company. Regardless of the job hierarchy. This again boils down to having a strong corporate culture.

The truth is: any company has a culture. Nevertheless, it can be either strong and productive, or weak and destructive, and that is why it’s important to understand its role and focus on creating the right culture from the beginning.

So no matter how amazing your product or your service is, building a great company is all about setting the right culture. You get it right, and you will see incredible results.

What do you think? Would you agree that the company culture is the most important thing in any organization? Let me know in the comment section below.

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