This article originally appeared in AllBusiness.
We’ve all experienced it: walking into a place of business and, within a few seconds, having that “feeling.”
It’s the feeling of uncomfortableness that resonates from the employees—the scowling, unfriendly, “why are you here?” feeling. You can see it in their eyes, in their body language, and hear it in their tone of voice. The place actually feels like there’s a storm cloud in the room.
And then there are the times you walk into a business and feel so welcomed, that you have to look twice to see if it’s mom and dad behind the counter. Every employee has a smile and is eager to help in any way possible, offering suggestions and pleasantries along the way. The surroundings are immaculate and you could swear the sun is shining inside.
These impressions are what I refer to as the “smell of the culture.” The first one “smells” like a pigsty and the other a rose garden, metaphorically speaking.
But a fragrant culture must be cultivated or it will likely revert to something that stinks. And a stinky culture makes for a bad experience for everyone—employees and customers alike.
How do you keep the bad odor out of your office? Through the creation of a core purpose and core values.
Your company’s culture is rooted in two things: your core purpose and core values.
Your core purpose speaks to why you exist as a business—why do you matter to the rest of the world? If your core purpose is understood and alive in your culture, it will motivate everyone in the company to be more engaged and willing to do whatever it takes to fulfill that purpose and reach beyond it.
Your core values are the set of rules by which you run your business. These values are the principles on which your business stands and operates in order to fulfill the company purpose.
Core values often come directly from the company’s founder or can be created as a team. Just like parents teach values to their children so they will make the right decisions when they are on their own, a company’s core values empower employees with a set of rules by which they can make decisions on behalf of the company. Follow the rules, and in most cases, any decision made by an employee, independent of others, will likely be in line with company desires.
Core values are used to hire and fire, attract and repel employees, and also attract the right kind of customers who share your company’s values. A company with team members and partners who believe in and live your core purpose and core values can conquer the world.
I recently returned from a trip to Disney World. The Walt Disney Company’s core purpose is all about happiness, and if you’ve ever experienced Disney World then you know the company’s core purpose is alive and well. From the employees, transportation, park appearances, hotels and more, every facet of Disney is about giving its customers the best experience possible.
I often ask those I coach to name a company which has happiness as a core value, and someone always immediately says The Walt Disney Company. The power of having a core culture that is brimming with purpose and intentionality is that those characteristics are automatically attributed to you and connected to your name, just as happiness and magic is attributed to Disney.
In other words, your culture cannot be great if your purpose and values don’t align with it. A strong culture creates a business of which both employees and customers want to be a part. However, great culture doesn’t just happen. It’s hard work that requires continual focus and accountability, but the return on investment is astronomical.