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Targeting the Right Culture to Match Your Vision

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In the men’s bathrooms in the Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam, an image of a fly is etched in the bowls just above the drain. The result is cleaner bathrooms due to less spillage. As a matter of fact, the image reduced spillage by 80%. Why did that happen? Because when people see a target they try to hit it.

The Entrepreneur’s Vision

Ask any entrepreneurs about their product or brand and they could talk for hours about how great their brand and/or product is. As pure visionaries they can elaborate on their vision for the future of their brand and paint a virtual picture in living color. They are always excited, passionate and clear about the target. It is a natural ingredient of entrepreneurial “beingness”.

Problems with the Vision

Make a comparison between any given entrepreneur’s vision for the company and the reality that exists with the rest of the team and you will usually find a gap. More often than not, the way the rest of the team thinks, feels and communicates is drastically different than the vision in entrepreneur’s mind. It’s an ongoing challenge to get the parties to agree on performance and vision. Why do entrepreneurs fail to make their mental visions a reality?

Why Visions Fail

Most of the time, entrepreneurs fail to bring the rest of the rest of the team up to speed with the vision. What lies in the gap between reality and vision is company culture. The bigger the gap, the less effective the culture will be in the organization. Culture is the substance that joins the reality and the vision together. Often times, the culture of the organization is not on the same playing field with the vision, which creates disparity between the two elements. I don’t think entrepreneurs invest enough thought in designing a culture to harmonize with their illustrious visions. Most entrepreneurs don’t understand the relationship between the two. In most cases, culture is allowed to evolve on its own rather than being designed with intention. If you don’t create a plan for the culture, the gap becomes bigger. Most things, when left alone, and without intervention, will deteriorate.
Walk into any office and you can almost see and/or feel the culture. Take a look around, what do you see? Does the environment speak of planned creativity or does it look like neglect? Does it feel warm and inviting or does it feel cold and barren? Most decision-makers fail to make the critical connection between environment and company culture.

Planning For No Culture

One approach is to let your team guess at making the best choice for the vision and brand hoping that they made the best choice. The problem with that is you have multiple people making choices that don’t have any relation to hitting the target. The result is many different schools of thought, with some being harmonious and others being conflicting. The best companies are very clear about their culture; it’s not an afterthought, and it’s carefully planned. Companies like Zappos, Neiman Marcus and Google are all products of deliberate planning (the fly in the bowl).

Attracting the Right People

I remember when I first met Dorothy. We both were getting our cars washed at the local carwash. She was the most beautiful women I had ever seen. I remember thinking how much she looked like Michelle Pfeiffer. I recall my heat being in my mouth. Getting over my fear over of being totally rejected, words came out of my mouth from somewhere. To this day, I know not from whens they came. As we talked, she told me what she did, where she worked and a little about herself, together with giving me her phone number. I Remember some days later buying a white linin tablecloth, shopping for some really interesting gourmet foods (that she liked), and French bottled water packed in ice, a bud vase with an orchid, silverware, sand and seawater from the beach in a decorative, and sending it to her office by messenger with a card that said; “Lunch at the beach”.

She was so blown away by that, as she told stories to everyone of eating lunch at her desk with the whole gourmet setup while coworkers looked on in wonder.

If you are interested in attracting the right relationships in your life, you need to make sure you are firing on all cylinders. Remember the care you took on that first date with Mr. or Ms. Right? You made sure you looked your best, smelled your best, and said the right things. Well, attracting the right people for your business works exactly the same way. To get the best recruits you need to impress them and demonstrate a culture that says “only the right people will do.”

Liken this to how an orchid seed reproduces itself. Nothing will come from an orange seed but an orange. Nothing will come from an apple seed but an apple. People understand this in the natural world but seem to forget when it comes to the culture in their offices. They want to plant an apple seed and get an orange. They want to take a shortcut and still produce the same target. Entrepreneurs frequently want to use cheap, ineffective solutions for office environments thinking that the team won’t notice, care or that the choice will not affect the brand positioning in the minds of the team. Likewise, if you are not planting the right cultural seeds, you cannot expect to attract the right people. One bad apple can spoil the whole bunch.

Choosing the Right Culture

Choosing the right culture is like choosing the right mate. We are all different with different backgrounds, personalities, styles and languages. Choosing one partner for you may not work for someone else and vice versa. Likewise, company’s visions, products, and ideas are all different. By first understanding who you are as a company and coming to grips with the defining elements of that, you will create the foundation for the mindset of your culture. Building on those defining elements in every way--what people see, what people hear, what people do--will help reinforce the company’s positions.

Building Your Brand from the Inside Out

Building a brand from the outside in is what most companies do. They become enamored by a product. The product enters the marketplace, and while it may be a great product, the foundation inside the company is not strong. That means there is no culture to stand behind the product. It’s like discovering the most amazing car on the planet, but the internal system is poor, which detracts from its value.
Conversely, creating an internal atmosphere whereby people rally around the brand because they are believers, changes the dynamics of the company. Creating a predetermined target that is consciously and subconsciously enforced makes for natural compliance (just like in the men’s room).

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