Make It or Break It: Company Culture


“Culture eats strategy for breakfast” – Peter Drucker

There is some debate whether Drucker actually said this but since his passing, we’ll never know. Either way, it’s a safe assumption that he believed it.

The Importance of Company Culture

If culture is so important, do you think it’s disingenuous to strategize it? After all, transforming a company’s culture can be one of the toughest undertakings an organization can assume. I’ve seen plenty of organizations that have tried basically everything with little success.

In 2001, I worked with an organization that had a high return rate, great market share, and loyal, relationship-based customers. They invited Jim Collins out to speak to their 65 branch managers at their annual company meeting. We all got a copy of his new book Good to Great. (Side note: if you haven’t read it, it’s all about companies pivoting and changing their mission).

During that meeting, someone inside the organization realized that ROI is not the only measure of success. They were right. In fact, as some may argue, ROI might even be third or fourth on the list behind culture, innovation, and even cause. Whatever you deem most important, there’s no blanket answer for all companies anymore. What I do know, however, is that in every situation, culture plays a significant role in a company’s success. Today, it’s more important than ever.

How do you decide if your company’s culture needs to change?

There are a few clear indicators that may signal your company is in need of a culture shift. To evaluate the health of your company’s current culture, research industry standards on employee culture and see where you stack up in the following categories:

  • Employee turnover. Is your company’s rate higher than the industry average? 
  • Onboarding/training costs. How much does it cost to bring on and train new employees?
  • Customer acquisition costs. How much are you spending on each new customer?
  • Customer churn rate. How quickly are you gaining/losing customers?

Evaluating this data may help you decide if your Good to Great moment lays just beyond a culture definition or change.

So how do you define or change company culture?


Where do we start with shaping company culture? Step one: look for clues. Your true culture is found in all your top performers, so start with them. It exists in that cleaning crew member who says hello to everyone he sees. In that young lady who started in customer support 6 years ago and is now running 12 teams. It’s found deep down in every great decision.


The process of redefining or changing a current company’s culture can be a true challenge. To do it successfully, approach it with collaboration in mind. You need honest and diverse thoughts, which will also drive buy-in on the change from those who will be executing it.


When a company gathers stakeholders, team members, and loyal customers, it’s easy to get sidetracked with the idea that you are selling something. The discussion often centers around features and benefits of the products or services. When meeting to discuss culture, it’s important to understand that the goal is not to define or change products.


A successful change will need a skilled moderator to guide conversations. A moderator can strategically keep the discussion on track and help everyone stay focused on the most productive topics. Remember that coming up with solutions isn’t the purpose of this meeting – it’s to discover, shape, and drive culture. At the same time, be aware that diving into the how can be a very slippery slope and get team members caught up in solving problems. Keep the conversation centered around discussing your why. After all, culture stems from why your organization exists the how is usually a by-product of that why.

HMG Creative’s Brand Strategy takes clients on a 3-week trip through interviews, an onsite workshop, and some fun, enlightening exercises all aimed to discover a company’s true culture.

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