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  • Writer's pictureTerry Dockery

Culture Eats Strategy for Breakfast

There is some debate about whether Peter Drucker actually said "Culture eats strategy for breakfast." Regardless, it's certainly been true in my 30+ years consulting with businesses. While strategy is important, your business culture is even more important in creating long term financial success. 

Your business culture essentially is "how we do things around here." If your culture isn't clearly defined, then folks will do whatever serves their best interests in the midst of that ambiguity. That seems fair given the absence of strong leadership. 

The best single way to create a defined culture is to create and reward clear Core Values. At the end of the day, your Core Values are your culture. 

After leading scores of Core Value exercises, I arrived at these 3 Core Values for my business: 

  1. Have fun: everyone deserves to be happy.

  2. Make money: having enough money is important to happiness. 

  3. Do good: we treat people like we want to be treated. 

As businesses scale up they often lose focus on the Core Values of the founders that led to their initial level of success. The typical scenario is that the "money guys" start to have more influence on decision making through an outsized emphasis on profit. Top leadership begins to forget that long term financial success is based on caring win-win relationships with coworkers, suppliers, and customers--not just profit alone. 

The best single way to preserve your Core Values as you scale up is to make them part of your individual performance management system. For example, a salesperson's performance would be evaluated on reaching sales goals (Make money) as well as conforming to the other important Core Values of the business (e.g., Do good). 

If our salesperson is reaching their sales goals by being dishonest with customers, then the salesperson isn't performing well. They aren't conforming to the Core Values of the company and perpetuating a culture that will support long term financial success. 

What are the 5 or less Core Values that guide your journey of successful scaling up? If everything is important, then nothing is important, so what are the most important values that will guarantee your long term financial success?

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