The importance of culture to all SME’s Chief Executives:

Our philosophy is that any business strategy needs to be viewed through both a commercial and a cultural lens, not least because the evidence is clear that culture itself is a fundamental driver of business performance.

Whilst most of our focus is on helping clients to grow their business, the impact of culture on business outcomes is just as significant in tougher times when the emphasis may be more on keeping the business going rather than growing.

We have the privilege of working with many clients that are already culturally in a good place but may need some help in crystalising and consolidating their culture into something more robust and scalable before they embark on a high growth strategy.

Our view is that engaging staff in this process of crystallisation is critical rather than allowing senior management to determine the matter from on high. The reason is simple – the full engagement of staff is key to truly embedding any desired culture over a sustained period and there’s no better way of getting their buy-in than handing them the keys to the process.

In working with the wider staff of an organisation to help them define their culture, our role is one of facilitation – our mantra is that we don’t interfere at all in the process of choosing or articulating the specific values and behaviours that the business employees themselves want to espouse. With one small, but important exception – which is to disallow two key values that are often identified by staff as being important to them and how they see their organisation; honesty and integrity.

That might seem strange, but it’s not because we believe organisations shouldn’t aspire to these values and related behaviours; in fact, it’s precisely the opposite – we believe these values are so fundamental that we regard them as “givens” that all businesses should hold themselves accountable to and, as such, they should sit outside the framing of those specific values that define a particular culture.

However, in the challenging times we face now, it’s worth remembering and reiterating these “given” values because under the extreme pressures that many organisations and management teams will face in the coming weeks, there will be a good degree of soul searching and looking inward for guidance as to what to do next.

To that end, our advice to any of you facing tough decisions would be to set your course by these values of honesty and integrity, especially in how you communicate with those around you – your suppliers, your customers, your stakeholders, your management colleagues and especially your staff.

Whilst not everyone will like the implications of your decisions, some of which may impact them personally very significantly, the vast majority will at least respect and appreciate you for the honesty and integrity that you’ve shown. And, as a result, they’re more likely to return you the favour by treating you in the same way and doing whatever they can to help you navigate through these tricky waters.