The definition of the word culture can range but the classic definition according to the Oxford Dictionary is “The arts and other manifestations of human intellectual achievements regarded collectively.” The verb to cultivate is the process of growth whether it be mind, faculties, manners or crops. Culture is the cultivation of the soul, mind, and creativity and without that cultivation companies risk losing what they have worked hard to build. A company’s’ culture defines who they are and what they represent to the investors, the end consumers and all employees and management (internal culture).
How then has this word become a gauge for how the end consumer or buyer regards a product or a service? How can the culture of a company fuel the brand of the company converting potential clients into long-term paying ones?
The answer is a simple as it is complex as it has also to do with emotions and feel on the part of the consumer. The culture of even a start-up company begins the moment the company is conceived. The concept is important and very relevant but everything after that becomes the company’s representation. It is how it appears to clients who examine their choices from stem to stern and include many peripherals such as:
If the customer’s value system, vision and culture align with the company they are considering then the relationship can develop based on the similarities.
An extreme example of a culture clash (crash/fail) would be a company who flaunts a modern, innovative, young culture hiring employees wearing three-piece suits and sporting hard sided briefcases. The two cultures may be equally respected but do not belong together even if their core values mesh.
The company InfusionSoft which caters to small and mid-size business solutions makes their culture a part of their name brand and products. When anyone visits their site the first line of focus centers on culture. It is there to define who they are as a people and what their culture will bring to their customer. As is often the case culture also includes core values such as in InfusionSoft’s example:
- Listening to needs
- Open communication
- Innovation and improvement
- “We check our egos at the door.”
Each of these core values are construed to represent what one can expect when dealing with this company. The whole of these values serve to feed into the overall culture of the company and their make up. It is essentially how the company works and the foundation of how they built their brand. To deviate from any of what is essentially the blood flow of the company can result in employee dissatisfaction, loss of customer confidence and ultimately a degeneration of the business brand.
Ikea is another company who has managed to retain a strong, reliable brand and brand awareness and at the same time crossing international borders. The connotations that arise from the Ikea brand are an exact mirror of their culture. They have built a corporate culture based on shared values. The concept is made known to potential hires and runs the gambit of their brand in both their physical locations which are almost identical in each location and the mind-set (philosophy) of upper management and new hires. The customer has come to expect what they have identified as company values.
- Cost consciousness
Culture – It begins at inception and should be adhered to as deviations even in the ‘lowest ranks’ can lead to a well-built organization collapsing, albeit slowly, from the inside out. Zappos CEO (Zappos Family of Companies) has been quoted as saying that in the early stages of building the company bad hires cost the company $100 million. He now hires based on a distinct cultural fit, in fact developing a whole training program based on culture.