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When ‘Serving up’ Business, Don’t Forget Company Culture


“Bon Appétit!”

I admit, hunger doesn’t typically pop into mind when pondering business strategies, and, that it is a rather odd request when discussing the matter of company culture (the soup du jour, if you will), nevertheless, it is my intention to present this subject in a pleasing and easily digestible way. I should point out a word of caution, as you can gather; there will be puns in this post.
To begin, instead of the usual “5 Steps to Achieve…” or “10 Things Never to do…” approach, I thought it would be fun to play-up the concept of the institution of business as a well prepared and hopefully delightful dish. Cutlery included.
Whether its a startup, a small business operation or a seasoned company, when recognizing what is at the core of your business, consider culture as one of the main ingredients to running a successful business. We understand the importance of customer service, alliances with other businesses and organizations, and having mutual support from your respective communities, but, these actions are usually developed after the business has already been established.

At the heart of every business are what I have determined (in my humble opinion) four essential items; keep in mind for the purpose of this topic I am only sticking with the staples, any additional flavors used to spice up your business should be added to suit your taste- and like any basic recipe; never take away, only substitute if need be. And so, the main ingredients to creating a successful business are:
4 parts – business model
3 parts – company culture
2 parts – company or personal brand
1 part – sell
First on the list is business model. A good business model will act as a centerpiece. It will help to envelop the company’s focus – the reason(s) the business was formed. And a good place to start is to ask yourself, “What is the purpose of my business?” and if you said “To make money,” then you’re already set up to go stale quickly. A business model should be reflected as an extension of who the founder(s) is (are). Therefore, the model (and its reason) should be ingrained in the company’ psyche. Notwithstanding, a business plan is unlike a model in that the business plan – which is occasionally brought out and looked at roughly every six months – is viewed to see if the company has not gone off course from its original focus.
The second – but least thought of – is company culture. Culture sets the tone of the business; although it is mostly seen as an afterthought – like dessert that’s contemplated over after being served the main course. It is, however, an important part to the structural mixture of a business. Furthermore, the atmosphere created is not conducive to the type of business; rather, it depends on the management style of its founder(s). What is your company’s environment? Is it inviting, laid-back, or distant, stiff-necked?
Another aspect not usually considered is not leaving it solely up to the employees in creating the company environment. Depending on the group, this can lead to exclusivity which will make it difficult for other new employees in feeling welcomed when first hired. Before the gasps persist, I am not implying that companywide involvement should not be fostered only advising to recognize which (or whose) persona is at the helm. Also, as John Tabis of FastCompany pointed out about the trappings of what misguided culture may do, “Bells and whistles are great, and no one is about to turn down a free lunch, but sometimes these perks that really feel like culture can distract leadership from doing the hard work of building it from scratch.”
In the not-so-distant past, whenever I went on an interview for a company that I was highly interested in, one of the first questions I would ask is, “What is the company’s atmosphere like?”. Knowing this would help me in making decisions concerning if the company is family-oriented, how involved are they with community services, or with how does the company convey its priorities; knowing this also would help me with being prepared for what’s ahead if an offer were made.
After you have determined the attitude of the atmosphere, the next thing to incorporate is public image. Company or personal branding expresses to the customer what the business wants to project. What is it that your company wants to communicate? A solid branding campaign that effectively promotes who you are can gain an expansive customer loyalty base. Reputation is vital; portraying a character (e.g. values, personality) that is opposite to the core of the business will leave a bitter and unforgettable taste to the consumer. Go back to the business model and remember why you’re in the business in the first place.
Last, but not least, is sells. How well do you sell your product or service? Perfecting this will act as a launching pad for value proposition. A simple definition of value proposition describes how a company measures the need (or comes to the determination of value) of its product or service for the customer’s sake. Many young startups incorrectly place emphasis only on value proposition believing that the product/service initially will sell itself. Convincing the public there’s a need for your business is another skill all together.
As you see, this “recipe” is easy to follow. It doesn’t require specialized training or accommodations. The only instruction you will have to give it is will. Preparation and a proper setting are key, but mood can make for an enjoyable experience.

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