While much has been written on the ways culture trumps strategy, I have never seen this philosophy in effect until I was able to spend some time with the Ben & Jerry’s family. And let me just say that what I learned from this experience is that culture trumps strategy every single time.
For me, their heritage and culture is so rich that it completely trumps their business strategy. They are connecting emotionally in their communities and their group understands that waking up in the morning to do important work is not just about making money. While they acknowledge that profitability needs to be there, it is in fact a byproduct of their group’s higher purpose.
Culture is the set of expectations companies place on their workforce and the unwritten (or written) guidelines that influence individual behavior within the company. In contrast, strategy is an outline of a company direction and how it intends to get there as a unit.
When seeking a franchise business, invest in discovering its brand culture. Questions to ask yourself include:
1. What does the company culture look like?
2. How is the culture integrated into the brand values?
3. How are those values honored throughout internal and external communities?
4. What is the company leadership doing to ensure the retention of its culture and values?
5. Are employees engage in protecting the brand culture and values?
Once you have the answers to those questions, you will better be able to determine whether culture leads the strategy or the opposite.
In order to build your own thriving company culture, follow these four guidelines that have aided Ben & Jerry’s culture and value-driven success.
1. Leadership alignment: Whether you’re running a new business or want to change the structure of an existing one, make sure the leadership team is in agreement on the type of company culture everyone wants to create. Without leadership alignment, even the best company culture can get derailed. Once you have determined the company’s culture, make sure that culture is reflected in the leadership values from the top down.
2. Focus: Establishing a company culture is just the first step toward the goal of creating a successful one. One your team has decided what it wants to create, it will take time, focus and energy to keep it moving forward.
3. Communicate: This is key when it comes to sharing your brand values and culture. Not only should they be communicated internally, but externally as well. Shareholders, family members, media and other business leaders will be interested in your story and what your brand culture is all about. Employees must also understand the brand culture you’re trying to create and why. This will give them an opportunity to identify and engage with the brand, its leaders and its place in the community.
4. Follow through: Put a structure in place that consists of quarterly, semi-annual or annual reviews that are designed to ensure things are progressing. If the focus has shifted, use these reviews to get everything back on track or to re-engineer the company’s cultural and value-driven priorities.
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