Warren Buffett is quoted as saying, “It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you’ll do things differently.”
Could what he said be applied to a company’s culture as well? What if Buffett instead said, “It takes 20 years to build a company culture and five minutes to ruin it”? We could argue that this idea shouldn’t be true for your organization. Here’s why.
A company culture shouldn’t take 20 years to build.
Whether a company was founded in 1917 or 2017, its culture is ultimately the backdrop for all business and personal interaction. Company culture includes both the tangible and intangible. You’ll often hear people talking about ping-pong tables when they talk about culture. (i.e. “Our culture is great! We have ping-pong tables!) While those perks are certainly important, there are immaterial things that oftentimes more accurately express a company’s identity. The physical things can be taken away in five minutes but if your values and mission are embodied in the way people work and interact, then your culture can’t go away quickly.
If your culture is torpedoed by a single announcement or decision, it was too fragile in the first place.
Significant events like leadership shakeups, earnings reports, etc. understandably will affect your workforce. But if these moves can substantially shift your company culture, (and even worse, if you’re surprised by the reaction) then you have a problem. A healthy company culture should be able to sustain substantial business events. Even more importantly, the strength of your company culture should support and reassure employees during times of transition.
So what is underlying current to a successful company culture? What one driving force will make sure it’s evident from an employee’s first day and won’t be disrupted by business decisions or shakeups? Transparency. If you have a culture where you communicate openly and consistently, both employees and customers will feel more connected to your organization.
Do you agree? Is there another element, besides transparency, that you think is essential to a successful and high-performing company culture?