There is no magic to creating the right culture; it is simple, but not easy. Think of different businesses that are known by the masses. Apple, Starbucks and Chick fil a come to mind. All of these are successful, and all are different. Or, are they that different? Perhaps it is appropriate to first look at their similarities and see if we can discern some of the secrets of their success, and then consider their differences.
Apple, Starbucks and Chick fil a all have similar products to other businesses, but their products are usually pricier. People are willing to pay a premium for their computers at Apple, their coffee at Starbucks, and their chicken at Chick fil a. None of these businesses are really competing on price; the budget focused customer is not their target market.
All three of these companies have a certain vibe in their stores, and it is an energetic and youthful vibe, regardless of the ages of the staff. Another similarity is competent and helpful staff. They exude a certain confidence, confidence in their product and confidence in themselves.
All three businesses are very successful, and that is not by accident, but by design. From their Mission, Vision and Values statements (and you can be sure, they have those) to the daily decisions that are made, their strategy is clear. They hire, train, and promote people who can succeed in their particular environment. They also fire those who can’t or don‘t. There is also a level of consistency found in these businesses that is too often lacking in other businesses with same or similar products. For example, when traveling by car I usually choose to stop for lunch at a Chick fil a, and have not been disappointed. The food quality is consistent across state lines, and the staff is clean and friendly. I can also expect long lines in the drive through, regardless of the time of day, and I (even being impatient,) am willing to wait, for I know the lines move quickly. I also know that I will not find a Chick fil a open on Sunday anywhere, for the corporate Values preclude that.
Perhaps even more than Starbucks or Chick fil a, Apple is heralded as an example of greatness. People stand in lines for hours and even days waiting on new releases. Apple’s strategy of continual innovation (or planned obsolescence!) is well known. Although the cost of the computers can be more than 2x the cost of others, many people are willing to pay the difference. While for many years Apple computers were more attractive to creative types and the PC to business people, that is no longer the case. Apple has become more successful lately at widening its net and attracting die hard PC users. The security of Apple computers is well documented, and service problems are reported to occur much less often with Apple products than with PCs. And when service problems do occur, one can expect to talk with an understandable and respectful English speaking person.
So, how are these cultures created? First of all, by design. There is a clear strategy, and it does not include, “be all things to all people.” For the Apple, Chick fil a, and Starbucks customer must be willing to pay a premium for their products, and everyone is not willing (and it should be noted, some are not able) to do that. (But as for not being “able” to pay the premium price, one only has to see the guests at Disney who do not appear to be able to afford those prices to know that if the experience is valued, customers find a way to pay.)
These successful businesses hire the right kind of people, the kind of people who will represent their corporate Values to their customers. As an example, while extreme tattoos are common and visible on Apple and Starbucks staff, they aren’t on Chick fil a staff.
Then there is the issue of good Systems. There are many types of systems in companies, some technological, such as computer systems, and others systems, such as management systems and systems of communication. These systems in successful companies work both for the staff and the paying customer, which result in efficiencies, productivity and profit. The amount of money many companies waste due to turnover of staff and the exorbitant cost of advertising, hiring, and training, is nothing short of amazing.
The “How” of creating the right culture, the culture that will result in success for individual companies is simple: Strategy, People and Systems. Any weakness in any of these three areas will eventually result in failure for a company.
While this is simple, it isn’t easy. But true success is never easy.
Great article! I agree!