Throw out the term “corporate culture” and people typically think of large businesses. Large financial firms and old-school technology companies like IBM typically conjure up images of button-down foot soldiers marching in lock-step to the beat of a single drum. New technology companies like Google and Apple have established identities as free-wheeling, creative incubators for out-of-the-box thinkers. They’ve also built reputations for providing superior products and services that cater to the needs of their customers.
The truth of the matter is that every company, large or small, has a corporate culture, and it goes far beyond dress codes.
Your Culture is Your People
To a large degree, your products and services help establish the identity of your company, but ultimately it has a lot more to do with the ethics and attitudes of your employees. They’re the ones who typically project your company image in the most consistent and personal way to your customers.
Many of us still remember a time when small businesses often displayed signs declaring “The Customer is Always Right” in their lobbies or near their checkout counters. For most of those businesses, it was more than a catchy slogan; it was the essence of their corporate culture.
In today’s economic climate, businesses of every stripe and size need to refocus on customer service if they hope to survive, and, as the saying goes, they need to “walk the walk” not just “talk the talk.”
Culture is All-Inclusive
From the owner to the part-time worker, your business needs to focus on delivering unsurpassed customer service both in words and deeds. For some businesses, that may mean offering special training or incentives to employees who consistently meet your standards of customer service and quality.
You should also take the time and make the effort to take an honest inventory of your company’s strengths and weaknesses in the areas of products and services as well as customer service and make any necessary changes to ensure your employees honestly believe in your business. In some cases, the process can be tedious and painful but it will ultimately empower your workforce, improve employee retention and increase sales.
Consistency is Key
For years, a group of friends had dreamed of opening a small town coffee shop. In the early 1990s, they took the plunge and over the years, their business has grown and draws heavily on the local college for both customers and employees. The coffee drinks, sandwiches and pastries are always fresh and delicious and the service is always fast and friendly even though the faces behind the counter have changed numerous times over the years.
When asked about the success of their venture, the owner’s immediate response was not to credit their location, marketing or products. Instead she said their success was due in large part to the culture of their business and the way their employees have consistently embraced that culture over the years.
Despite the economic ups and downs of the past decade, their business is booming. So much so, that they’ve outgrown their current off-site coffee roasting facilities and are planning to move into a larger space to meet the demand.