Why Does Culture Matter?

“They see the work that needs doing, why don’t they just do it?” Or how about, “I don’t know what it is about this younger generation but they sure as heck don’t work as long and hard as we did!”
My, my, my. How often I’ve heard those words. And even said them myself many years ago. Having a team that thinks of your firm as if it were their own is a matter of culture.

I’m reminded of a firm I was engaged to help a few years back who was really struggling in making ends meet. Both partners were working very long hours and had little to show by way of profits by the end of the day. Upon my initial meeting with the partners, I became convinced that the first task at hand would be to fire the entire team and build anew. According to the partners, none of the employees were motivated, none of them cared, and all were only there for the paycheque which was apparent by their continuous demand for more pay.

However, after meeting with each team member individually, it now became very apparent that it was not the employees that needed to be fired, but rather the partners. Some serious training would be required.

People often complain about today’s younger generation, most often in a negative way, Fact is, people have been complaining about the younger generation for centuries. There are quotes dated back to even 2000 years where people predict this world is going to hell because of this ‘new generation.’ Nothing’s changed. I’ve come to discover that today’s younger generation is different than how I was raised, but it’s not all bad. In fact, I’d say, if you know how to deal with the Millennials, they can be extremely productive. Again, it’s a matter of culture.

The good news is that if they’re not as productive, or work as hard as you’d like, this can be fixed. The bad news is that if they’re not as productive or work as hard as you’d like, it’s very likely your fault. But then, this too is good news, assuming you can change.

Good and bad culture is a bit difficult to define—you know it when you see it. It is something you feel that is sometimes difficult to put into words.

But what makes building a good healthy culture difficult is that the culture of firm A can be totally different from firm B. And yet both work. This makes improving culture more difficult.

And if you believe you will have the answer on how to improve your firm culture in this article, I’m very sorry but that won’t happen. Improving firm culture is a long, and sometimes very painful process. But I doubt that there’s much you can do to improve your profits or work condition than improving culture. A great work culture will very likely be the very thing that will have the absolute greatest impact on your firm’s profits.

So where do you even start?

Start with hiring the right team, show them your vision. More importantly, have them participate in creating this ‘vision’ for the firm. Amazing what a team who’s involved in all decisions in a firm can accomplish. Amazing the impact on your culture these small adjustments can make. And how so beautifully rewarding!

It took me years of trial and error to finally get it right (as right as right can be). The way I interview new candidates, the selection process, the discussions I continually have with my team are all contributing factors, to finally arriving at building a team culture I believe is second to none.

Now, going back to the story of the two partners who believed they had bad employees. Move the clock forward three years, with the partners having learned some badly needed skills, the partners will admit that they have the most extraordinary team in the entire province. Their profits are up beyond their wildest dreams and coming in to work to lead this team is now fun. What changed? Culture.