Company Culture Is the Key to Startup Success
I recently had the privilege of joining my friend and the chairman and CEO of Shaklee Corporation, Roger Barnett, at Shaklee Live, an annual conference to which Shaklee’s global sellers are invited. The content of the conference reminded me of my days as a student at Stanford’s Graduate School of Business and the principles instilled in me by labor economist Ed Lazear’s incentives and productivity course, Jim Lattin’s sales course, and James Baron’s course on human resources/organizational behavior.
To put those principles simply: Culture matters.
Barnett started his keynote by reminding the auditorium of 10,000 people that “We are here because we have the power to change people’s lives from ordinary to amazing.” Barnett and the speakers who followed him continually underscored that Shaklee can be the vehicle to “unleash the potential of all human beings to ‘live amazing lives.’” As such, Barnett’s third great introduction of the day was the Shaklee “Bill of Rights.” In it, Barnett articulates a worldview that’s easy to embrace. Paraphrased, some key tenets of the bill include: unleashing your full potential; working to thrive, not just survive; being part of a community; making a positive impact on said community and the importance of giving back; living free of toxins and stress; experiencing the world; and “living younger, longer” (my personal favorite).
Beyond great products, great technology, and great credentials, what is the secret to this remarkable Fortune 500 company’s success? Culture.
How does a strong corporate culture inspire intrinsically motivated, passionate, loyal, and dedicated team members?
1. People Need to Be Able to Articulate the Company’s Vision Clearly and Succinctly
When your team members can communicate the company’s vision clearly and succinctly, they are also better able to convert customers into brand advocates. Companies like SocialChorus have built businesses based upon this concept, and SocialChorus CEO Gregory Shove will be the first to remind you that your employees are your most important brand advocates. Shaklee calls the payoff of being a member of its community the “Shaklee Effect.” This is a perfect example of a clear and repeatable vision statement translated into a tagline.
2. People Want to Be Surrounded by Colleagues and Coworkers Who Share Their Values
Exceptionally hard work has always been a value to us here at Bottlenotes. For this reason, I rally our troops to “team workouts” once or twice a year with a hard-charging athletic coach. Whether we are doing relay races or running the stadium stairs, the act of rooting each other on creates bonds that translate into the workplace, yielding a more interdependent team, a stronger work ethic, and better results.
3. People Want to Be Celebrated for Their Successes
Shaklee does a masterful job of celebrating and rewarding its members’ successes through initiatives like encouraging the 120 “master coordinators” to participate in a parade or sharing photos of top performers who earned trips to Maui or Los Cabos. As I observed at the conference, this public acknowledgment inspires all of Shaklee’s members to strive for success and reach new heights of performance.
4. People Want to Be Part of an Organization With Clear Goals
When driving toward a new milestone in terms of email sign-ups or Facebook fans or working to reach a new net profitability goal for Bottlenotes events, our team members have rallied the most for one another when we’re inches away from a new, company-wide goal.
5. People Want to Be Part of a Company That Delivers a “Double Bottom Line”
The double bottom line deals with both profit and impact (local and global). Shaklee nails this pillar of culture by doing things like planting five million trees to celebrate the organization’s “zero net environmental impact” and using plant-based, GMO-free proteins.
We hear lots of stories of Silicon Valley-area companies with strong cultures. I had the privilege of speaking at Zappos.com CEO Tony Hsieh’s Catalyst Week and attending Zappos’s quarterly off-site retreat. Zappos also nails culture — and thus drives extremely loyal, engaged, and committed team members to work hard in an otherwise commoditized category (and in an up-and-coming geographic location).
Culture can inspire employees to move themselves, to move mountains, and to support each other in ways that are truly irreplaceable. And if you top your culture off with market-leading products supported by great technology, then culture seems to be the most defensible competitive advantage of them all.
A version of this article originally appeared on BusinessCollective.
Alyssa J. Rapp is the founder and CEO of Bottlenotes, Inc., the leading interactive media company in the U.S. wine industry. Alyssa is the author of Bottlenotes Guide to Wine: Around the World in 80 Sips and was named one of Inc.’s “30 Under 30″ coolest entrepreneurs in America. Alyssa has appeared on The TODAY Show, Fox Business Network, The Rachael Ray Show, ABC, and NBC as an expert on wine and entrepreneurship.
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