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How Would You Define Your Company’s Culture?

 

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Gail Doby, ASID

In business I find that I often refer to a company’s “culture”, and it was a common topic at the Interior Design Summit this year, but I began to wonder how many interior designers have clearly defined the culture of their companies.   Joni Vanderslice, one of our key note speakers, stressed the importance of knowing your culture and stated that knowing their culture was a great part of the success of their firm.  If asked, would your team be able to define the culture of your company?  And would those words make your company culture distinct — words that would set you apart and draw not only your ideal clients, but also the ideal employees?

Joni suggested having your team create a “canvas” with the words and/or terms that define your culture and I think it’s a valuable exercise not only to define your culture, but an exercise to repeat regularly to remind yourselves of the importance of your culture.  Make it a fun brainstorming session at a team meeting, and then as Joni shared that their team did, post those words that you end up choosing throughout your office — good reminders on a daily basis.  Your team will come up with its own words, I’m sure, but to get you started, some relationship culture words from Joni’s “canvas” are:  integrity; respect; communication; openness/sharing; and customer service.  The results oriented words they used were: execution, quality, teamwork, problem solving, and profitability.

For example, Zappos is a company most of us are familiar with. They define their culture on their website – along with stating their core values and indicating that at Zappos.com they believe in the “work hard – play hard” mentality, inviting visitors to visit their “culture blog” to see the “play hard” side of their lives.  Having a tab on their website for “our culture” is in itself unusual.  That addition might also be something you choose to do when you define your company’s culture.

Quirky, a New York based invention company, defines its values and philosophy in its name.

IBM states on their website that they value “trust and responsibility in all relationships”. Some words that are used to define the Barbara Barry brand are: hands on, “custom made,” engaging on every level of design.

J Banks Design Group uses phrases such as:  we are a relationship based business; we give our clients their vision; under promise, over deliver; we are authentic – no divas here!

In addition to those examples are some phrases I came across in several articles on company culture: Choose positivity; default to transparency, focus on self-improvement, be a no ego-doer; listen first, then listen more; communicate with clarity; make time to reflect; live smarter, not harder; show gratitude; do the right thing.

Once you have clearly defined your culture, incorporate those words and phrases throughout the company, using them as part of the review forms for evaluations.

Remember that your culture is what makes you unique — and definitely should add value.

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Gail Doby

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