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Creating Company Culture Without Going Back For An MBA


by Julianna Davies

These days, when small technology start-ups arrive on the scene and quickly become multimillion-dollar operations, the creation of an effective company culture is crucial to engendering loyalty and productivity in employees. Successful corporations such as Google and Apple are well-known for their attempts to create employee-friendly corporate cultures. Prospective owners of small business start-ups can research successful corporate cultures and learn how to build their own cultures of business success, without enrolling in an MBA program.

Jim Stengel’s book, “Grow: How Ideals Power Growth and Profit at the World’s Greatest Companies” includes a 10-year study of corporate culture at 50 of the world’s most successful businesses. Forbes writer Martin Zwilling condenses many of the culture building practices of these businesses in a March 2012 piece published by the magazine.

Clarity of vision arises often as a key guiding principle for building a successful company culture. Companies with successful employee cultures understand that their business goals go beyond increased sales and customer service ratings, and that employees are an important vehicle for meeting a vision. This is especially true of smaller start-ups, which are typically founded based on the vision of one or two owners.

Effective use of company events can also be used to set a course, especially when utilizing company-wide events such as holidays or new product announcements. Former Apple CEO Steve Jobs was well-known for creating a lot of hype surrounding a new product launch and using those events to chart the corporation’s future in the device industry. The proper focus can create a symbolic importance that resonates across your entire business.

Clear channels of interpersonal communication among and between employees are necessary to create culture in the first place. A New York Times interview with Evernote CEO Phil Libin discusses infrastructure changes made by the company to ensure closer communication across departments. None of Evernote’s employees, including the executive staff, have personal offices or even cubicles. Libin has also done away with desk phones, arguing that they’ve become outdated as employees continuously have access to their cell phones. This forces employees from across the company to communicate face-to-face.

Creative uses of technology can also go a long way in cultivating a specific corporate atmosphere. Evernote, a developer of note taking software, operates offices in both California and Texas. In order to close the geographical distance between the two, Libin has instituted a “video wall” where employees from either office can stand in front of it to see employees from the other office. There’s also no feeling of surveillance as the video wall is separated from the main work area.

According to Fortune 100 executive coach Meredith Haberfeld, a company’s culture cannot take hold unless its employees believe that channels of communication within the workplace are both open and honest. In a guest piece for The Huffington Post, Haberfeld outlines specific steps to t build a corporate culture. In addition to clear communication, honest identification and articulation of business values are also important in first establishing the culture. “Improved culture means different things to different people,” she writes, “so cultural improvements need to be built around clearly identified values.”

Company culture grows from specific visions, clear and effective communication and creative use of technology, none of which require an MBA to implement. It is important that those responsible for leading a company, whether it is new or well established, understand how to create a culture that promotes feelings of value and appreciation and that clearly set forth the steps to attaining company goals.


Julianna Davies regularly contributes to MBA Online, an online resource dedicated to providing information on MBAs, including who should pursue them and where.


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