News and Insights

Business Decision Makers Invest in Strong Cultures

Kerry Grady, Founder
February 09, 2016

Report finds companies focused on their culture are better long-term partners than bottom-line watchers.

Companies are no longer judged on what the say, but rather on what they do. This is why whatever services or products you are selling, business is always better and more sustainable when people buy into your culture first. There has been a massive change in this regard. The values of a company used to always be a “soft” factor – the ideas shared by a group that are designed to give it purpose and to keep it focused.

How did building a strong culture become a central objective of corporate governance? The Fortune Knowledge Group conducted a study to look into this question. The findings, based on the responses of 500 executives are now published as Beyond the Brand: Why Business Decision Makers Buy into Strong Cultures.The report has a powerful message: Culture has taken the lead as the primary driver of long-term business relationships.

The majority of the respondents (60 percent) said that knowing what a company stands for is much more important in choosing a corporate partner than whether it’s innovative (21 percent) or dominates its market (20 percent). And, 81 percent of the executives said that companies that are successful at building long-term relationships make a direct correlation between what they believe in and the way they conduct their business.

Business decision makers were clear in what they want from prospective partners. They want to know if you have a soul. Of course they are doing their due diligence in terms of products, services and financials. But they’re conducting an emotional audit too – and your cultural P&L better be in good shape.

How much does it matter? Well, 68 percent of respondents said it’s worth making short-term financial sacrifices to cultivate long-term relationships. The key word here is relationships. It’s less of a business-t-business transaction and more of a human-to-human transaction. Decision makers are looking deeply into their partner’s values and purpose before they commit. Since values and purpose are qualities that exist in actions rather than words, culture cannot be faked. There is a glass door between social media and your company’s culture, In this always-on, hyper-connected world, anyone can see when the King has no clothes. However, authentic actions are equally accessible. If it’s real, people will feel it – quickly.

According to the study, executives believe that the way to build a culture based on authenticity, you need to begin at the very foundation of the business. Eighty percent of the executives agreed that a successful company’s biggest idea is often the one on which it was built. Getting back to that central idea is where the magic lies, and it should be what gives the business purpose. Rediscover the spirit that led to your success and make it the focus of your culture. Share it and celebrate it with everyone – and, that starts with your employees, because an inside-out approach to branding is the strategy shared by successful companies. They know that there’s nothing more damaging than having the brand say one thing and employees saying another.

In a world where executives want to do business with companies that truly live by their values, it’s clear that companies need to wear their hearts on their sleeves. Eighty-five percent of respondents said that they are now sharing their company’s purpose and values with key stakeholders more than they did five years ago. Ultimately, no company should be afraid to be itself. Your culture doesn’t need to perfectly align with the culture of your customers – only 14 percent of respondents said that misaligned cultures contributed to a significant business relationship going bad. The real damage is done when a business partner loses trust (72 percent) or willingness to collaborate (68 percent).

Savvy decision makers recognize that culture is a powerful force that needs to be nurtured and elevated. It should be built on the same sense of purpose that drove your business in the first place. Focus on who you are and what makes you different – your partners and customers with love you for it!

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