TOR 045: How To Develop A Business Culture That Matters

This was from the latest edition of The Optimized Report newsletter, a collection of actionable ideas to help small business teams improve their performance, profit, and potential without sacrificing what’s most important.

Company “culture” has become cliche.

“Build culture.” “Empower culture.” “It’s our culture.” Culture isn’t something you speak about. It’s something embedded into the DNA of an organization.

It’s a living organism that guides behavior.

Without an established culture, a company flops around in obscurity; everybody does their own thing, without any clear direction of what’s most important.

Culture is created in three different ways:

1. Influencers in the company model specific behavior.

It’s the spoken or unspoken actions of key team members that embed and reinforce culture.

For example, If I was a CEO who said our core value is promptness and that early is on time, on time is late, and late is bad business, but I was late to all my meetings, my behavior would be telling my team that being late is okay.

Your actions and the actions of key leaders set the culture.

2. The actions and decisions leaders make in highly stressful situations.

You’ll see someone at their core when their decision-making is put under a stress test.

How do the leaders act in stressful situations? Do they yell, scream, and point blame when issues arise? Or are they calm, focused, and supportive?

The leader’s reactions set the standard for what others will do in stressful situations.

3. Specific behaved priorities get rewarded over time.

Ideal behaviors are things that matter to a company.

For example, when the company has to pay attention to details as the product is highly complex and expensive. If a team member is attentive, they can grow within the company, but if they’re not, they won’t or may even be fired.

So, how do you build culture?

It’s simple.

You’ll establish 5–7 core values essential to everything you do as a company.

The values of a company are the filtering mechanism for nearly everything.

Step 1: Pay attention.

If you’re a startup, you’ll have to be aware of what’s most important to you at the moment, and your culture may expand and change over time as you see what’s working and not working.

If you’re an established company, you’ll notice the spoken and unspoken behaviors of key team members.

Step 2: Create a core values document.

Create a document that’s accessible to all team members.

Here’s an example from one of my companies:

Step 3: Embed your values in every part of the company.

You make hiring decisions based on the company values.

You’ll add them to your quarter reviews.

You apply core values to all training and coaching discussions.

You get the point.

Step 4: Repeat the core values often.

Your core values are never set it and forget it.

They’re never a marketing ploy. You’ll repeat your values tens of thousands of times to reiterate their importance and remind your team that they are non-negotiable.

Culture may be cliche, but it’s essential to building a successful team.


  • Understand how culture is created.
  • Pay attention to what values are most important.
  • Create a core values document.
  • Embed core values into every part of the company.
  • Repeat the values daily.

Onward and upward until next Sunday.



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