Posted by: Bill von Achen | March 4, 2011

Building Your Company’s Culture

At our Executive Book Club breakfast last Thursday, we discussed Tony Hsieh’s 2010 best-selling book, Delivering Happiness. While not everyone liked the book (it got an average score of about 6.5 out of 10 from those in attendance), Hsieh’s views on the importance of the unique culture at his company Zappos.com spurred an energetic discussion about the challenges of creating and sustaining a strong and defining company culture.

One of the very best ideas to emerge from our discussion came from Peter Butler, president of Hayes Management Consulting in Newton, MA. At Hayes, the company’s most important cultural values are capture in what they call “The Hayes Way,” a series of three, short, affirmative statements that get to the heart of what makes their company unique. The Hayes Way is actually brief enough that it’s printed on the back of each associate’s business cards.

But, while other companies would pat themselves on the back for formulating a succinct and meaningful mission statement and stop there, Pete and his employees get the most mileage out of The Hayes Way in two distinct ways. First, when meeting new clients for the first time, each Hayes associate takes a minute to tell the client about The Hayes Way, and then actually reads it out loud from the back of their business card. This simple act powerfully reaffirms its importance for both the client and the associate.

Second, every team meeting begins with each associate telling a short story about a recent work experience which exemplifies one or more of the principles found in The Hayes Way. The experience can be related to a recent client interaction, or a new sales call, or an encounter with another Hayes associate. But, through the telling of individual stories that embody the company’s cultural values, each associate is reminded of those values while helping to sustain them at the same time.

If you’d like a copy of The Hayes Way, drop me a note and I’ll be happy to provide you with a copy.

How do you create and sustain a unique, positive culture at your company? And what steps do you take to keep it alive with your employees and your customers? Share your thoughts and ideas on these questions here.  Thanks!


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