What is Business Culture? How Does it Matter? How Do You Develop it?

business culture rulesMerriam-Webster says business culture is: the set of shared attitudes, values, goals, and practices that characterizes an organization.

We can also say this of a country culture like in China.  Today, I focus on business culture development as it is a key to long term success…and even short term success when you are leading in China.

From Webster, we can see that all companies have a culture of some kind be it good or bad. We also know that few companies have a culture that propels them forward. Some companies like Southwest Airlines or Netflix achieve greatness by focusing on it.

How Does Culture Often Develop in Organizations?

If you start a company in Bloomington, Minnesota which is where I am from. And if you hire local people, you will have a culture a little like the culture outside your business. This might mean your business culture is Minnesota Nice . That probably will not help your business, but at least you would understand that if you were from Bloomington. Your culture would have a lot of similarities to the culture around you unless you had a plan to avoid that.  Now, if you expand and open a factory in Suzhou, China, people will be Chinese culturally. And your Chinese factory might have some Minnesota Nice influence because of you.  But because you do not intuitively sense Chinese culture as well as your Chinese managers, you are in deep water quickly. Some of the weaknesses of Chinese culture could bite you.

Furthermore, Chinese culture is in a period of rapid change. People coming in the door are sometimes old school Chinese and sometimes new school Chinese and many flavors in between. Even the Chinese get confused in this tumultuous change.

And that leads to high turnover, low productivity, and low worker morale. And do not blame that on the Chinese culture. We let pass and do not find out what should not be ignored.  We should focus on corporate culture in our Home country facility, so we have more than Minnesota Nice for example. Even more so, the benefits of investing in your culture can be much higher here in China.   So we should purpose to develop the set of shared attitudes, values, goals, and practices that characterize your China organization.

How Best We Develop Business Culture?

For example, my business and everywhere I have led had shared values of transparency, teachability, responsibility, and the unique value we find in each person. We do not have them on the wall.  However, when we decide how to work with a customer, they are front and center in our thinking and even in our discussion.  Let me summarize how I have developed this culture again and again in China.

1.I hired people who had or wanted to aspire to these values.
2.I brought up these values often in discussion. I did it in everything from finance to law and to customer opportunities.
3. I admitted I was wrong whenever that was the case as teachability and taking responsibility are key values.
4. I valued workers more highly if they exhibited all these in their work.
5. I  let workers go who did not find value in these values.

This costs me short term money sometimes, but it has helped my businesses short and long term wherever I have worked.  By the way, I did this whether I owned the whole store or just a small department. You can to.  It is what I am talking about when I talk about culture in this blog.

We help companies build healthy cultures by our diligence to understand our customer and by our diligence to understand our candidates. Together, we make companies better by giving them the raw material of good hires to build their culture.


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Posted in: Culture Development, Leadership

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