Whether you are a leader or a team member, whether you are in sales or shipping, or whether your company is a technology giant, or a local restaurant, you need to understand what kind of company you are in. Stated another way, “What is your company culture?”
There are basically two kinds of companies: those that are customer-focused, and those that are operations-focused. The latter tend to be centered on efficiency and cost control to drive the bottom line, while those that are more customer-focused tend to look to revenue growth as well as to creative new products and services to improve profitability. While these global statements may sound nice, how do you tell which is which? You do it by examining how a company thinks and acts. Here are a few places to look.
- A good place to start might be the Employee Handbook. Putting aside the various legal requirements, does the Employee Handbook outline policies and employee guidelines, or is it a long set of rules that require a superior’s approval for anything out of the ordinary? Policies and guidelines empower the employee to make reasonable decisions that can be in the customer’s best interest. Rigid rules ensure that the company stays firmly in control.
- When looking for a new employee, is the hiring process all about the specific technical duties of the job, or does it include reviewing personalities and core values to be sure that the new person will be compatible with the company’s mission and vision? The customer-focused company wants to be sure that the individual will fit as part of the team. In contrast, the operations-focused one cares only that the job gets done.
- Company training programs provide another rich source of information. When the company spends time and money on a training program, are they only about technical issues, or do they include soft skills like relationship building and customer service? Speaking of customer service, does that training include only outward facing employees, or does it recognize that every member of the organization is part of the customer service team?
- Finally, you might ask: “Where does a company’s culture come from?” The answer is easy: LEADERSHIP. If you want a snapshot of a company’s culture, look at how the leader(s) act. (If you are a leader take an objective look in a mirror, or better yet ask for candid feedback from those you trust.) Does the leader just look at numbers and make sure everybody knows he is boss? Does (s)he look to customer satisfaction, employee engagement, and growth? The answer will clearly reflect the company culture.
OK, I’m sure you see the pattern. The customer-focused company puts people first in every aspect of company operation. They build a culture of engaged, happy, and fulfilled employees that deliver superior customer service and propel the organization to new heights. In contrast an operations-focused company develops a culture based on systems, procedures, and control. There is ample evidence in business literature that shows that companies with a customer-focused culture tend to be more successful.
If you want to examine or improve your company culture, please contact me at Strategy1. Our experienced consulting team has over 200 combined years managing and mentoring companies. We are specialists in culture and change management.
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