Derek Bishop


From every acorn

Date added: 17th Jun 2015
Category: Organisational Culture Change

Successful businesses have leaders who understand the value of a strong culture and who look for that culture to stand firm no matter what challenges the business landscape throws up

No matter how many programmes we watch on television, the wonder of nature is that it continually throws up new and exciting marvels for us to delight in. Even the commonplace, the traditional sights and sounds of the British countryside have it in them to surprise even the most seasoned wildlife watcher; as was demonstrated on spring watch just recently when seasoned birdwatchers were surprised by previously unseen owl behaviour.

In fact, it we are to learn anything from nature it is that whilst every species may have an overarching pattern of behaviour, within this we see an endless number of variations. Every plant, every animal is unique in the way in which they respond with their behaviour partly being governed by their DNA and partly by their environment.

Take the mighty oak tree as an example. Each acorn carries within it the seed of life, the DNA instructions which are the building blocks of life. But how the tree will grow, whether in fact it will grow at all, will be influenced by environmental factors. Where the seed lands, the nutrition in the soil, the amount of rain, pollution, wind, competing species; all will play their part.

It’s a lesson which those who are starting up in business would do well to learn from. The founders bring with them the initial structure of the business. This not only decides and informs what products or services are going to be offered but also the basic culture of the business. The attention we pay to our work, how we interact with suppliers, the level of customer service we offer; all are affected by what the founders bring to the business at the outset.

But as the business forms and then starts to grow it is affected increasingly by external and internal factors. The attitudes and values of new employees, competition in the marketplace, customer preferences, even governmental regulations can all play their part in shaping the future growth of the business. Through all of this the founders have to remain strong if they are to maintain the culture which made the successful in the first place.

No culture will remain unchanged ever, indeed it is a mark of a strong culture that it does develop over time, but there are some core values which will continue to mark the business out as a unique offering. Qualities such as a desire for customer excellence, a strong product or an innovative approach will need to be reinforced if they are to be retained as the business grows.

Partly this will come through hiring for cultural fit, taking on employees who not only share the values of the business but will also enhance them. Partly it will come through a strong emphasis on company values running through every action and interaction.  For example, only appointing suppliers who share cultural values or refusing a contract if it would mean watering down standards will help to maintain the core culture. But most of all it will require a leadership who have embraced the culture and are looking to promote it at every turn.

Every business is unique. What distinguishes one shoe shop from another, one IT company from another, is the core culture which runs throughout the organisation. It is this which attracts or repels customers, it is this which creates employees who are clock watchers or those who are fully engaged in promoting the aims of the business, and it is this which will ultimately determine whether the business thrives or withers away. Every business started somewhere; the successful ones have leaders who understand the value of a strong culture and who look for that culture to stand firm no matter what challenges the business landscape throws up.

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