This is probably one of the most overused and many times least understood terms in the business world. Everyone keeps telling you you have to have a great culture, but what does that even mean?

How many companies would you say have a definitive culture?
I would say all of them.

The truth is that all companies have a well-defined culture.
Even if you work for yourself, you’re still identified by how you do business. That’s because every company has “a way we do things around here.”

So let’s start by wrapping our minds around what the term really means:

• The behaviors and beliefs characteristic of a particular business, social, ethnic, or age group:

Your company may have a defined vision and values, but in the end, those are just words. Your culture will always be defined by actions, not words.

One thing we’ve learned over the years is that a company’s culture is largely defined by the behavior and style of the owner or leader. In a nutshell, you set the tone for your business. It’s your behavior that defines your company culture, not your words.

I’ve been in a few companies that have a Mission Statement, Vision and Values. One even had a card printed up for you to carry everywhere you go. If you didn’t have those memorized, it was nothing short of blasphemy!
The problem was that the leadership of the company was not able to translate the words into behaviors, which ultimately did not live up to what they proclaimed in their printed cards.

The lesson here is you shouldn’t preach values you can’t live. You’re better off saying nothing at all. Regardless of your corporate mission or values, your employees will always look to you for how they should behave, and they’ll try to emulate you – for better or worse. Want a great company culture? YOU need to set the example.

Okay, so those words aren’t entirely meaningless. I tell all my clients that they should start by writing down their values – and then living those values on a daily basis.

If you really commit to this, you’ll soon find that your employees are taking your lead…and helping you build the culture you want.

If you don’t know your “core values” think about it and write them down. Keep a couple things in mind:

• Who can identify with those values? I would not do this in a vacuum. Get input from those with a stake in your business – like your employees and investors.
• Can you live these values? If you can’t, they shouldn’t make the list.

Now come the tough questions:

What if your culture is not what you want it to be?
How do you create the culture that you desire in your business?

Regardless of your industry, a culture of inclusion, engagement and collaboration always yields the best and quickest results.

The best ideas I’ve ever had rarely came when I was by myself. Collaboration is the trigger to thought and action.

As you work to define – and execute – your company culture, I’ll leave you with a few thoughts to keep in mind:

• You are the culture – the company compass
• Consider what this means to your business and your brand
• Think of three to five words that best describe:
• Your company as you want it to be
• Your company as it is now

Are they the same? If not, how can you sync them?

• You have to live it and breathe it
• People can ignore words
• Its much harder to ignore actions

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