Money Can't Buy You Culture
Recently, I have been asked questions about Metal Toad’s culture. People want me to explain what our culture is, how we got it and, for that matter, how we keep it? It is amazing to me that after explaining our culture how it resonates with so many, others do not feel they have a culture and/or that somehow, the one they have is broken and needs to be fixed.
I often hear about companies rolling out a culture "program" and I always have to laugh. You do not roll out culture and you cannot buy it. Usually companies have a two day off site to develop their values and mission. After robust debates and hundreds of post-its, they come up with words on paper and then try to define that as culture.
At Metal Toad, we have many totems that may appear to be culture, but they are not. It’s not the Foosball table, the kegerator, work from home days, or unlimited vacation that defines our culture. They are simply parts of a much bigger picture!
So if you think going out and buying a ping pong table will bring you culture, you are wrong!
Culture is based on a set of values that connect people and they must be able to own them as their own. Like a singer to a song, if it's not authentic it will be lost and, more importantly, never resonate and bring true meaning. As Jack Welch said, “No company, small or large, can win over the long run without energized employees who believe in the mission and understand how to achieve it.” Culture requires the recognition of its existence good and bad first! Then trust, hard work, and alignment of people. After all, companies are just buildings, hardware, and stuff - the people are the heart and soul of any organization.
I can walk into an organization and feel the culture - it's a sense I get. It is so wonderful when it matches what the company defines as their culture. I'm not judging anyone or suggesting one culture is better than another. I'm simply stating that you cannot buy or manufacture it. I love what Laszlo Bock at Google said, “We want to understand what works here rather than what worked at any other organization.”
We have found what works for us, built on a foundation of values:
- Be curious.
- Provide value.
- Focus on the experience.
Measured by the growth of our business, retention of our Toads, and the satisfaction of our clients, Metal Toad seems to be doing something right.