Growing from Within
The vital signs of a healthy business culture.
By Walt Porter, MPT, DPT, CEAS
It is no secret that the health care industry is undergoing major change, and formidable new challenges keep appearing from every direction. Implementing ICD-10 into practice and adapting to changes associated with the Affordable Care Act are two topical examples. More broadly, as our baby boomer population continues to age, hospitals are working to vertically integrate, and insurance groups are consolidating to prepare for the future. What is exciting is that with change come opportunities, if you are able to spot them and ready to seize them.
In these unsettled and unsettling conditions, one of the must-haves for success—not to mention survival—is a positive and compelling business culture. Dealing with the outside world is a whole lot simpler when, within the company, everybody is in sync with values and on board with goals.
Of course, from the Fortune 500 to the corner store, no two companies are exactly alike, and every business runs its own version of business culture. Scholars of business continue to define and refine the concept. For many, the wellspring of a company’s culture lies in its core mission, vision, and values—or at least, it should.
Harvard’s John Coleman, for example, identifies the six components of a great corporate culture as follows: vision to guide a company’s values and provide it with purpose; values that offer guidelines on the behaviors and mindsets needed to achieve the vision; practices, whereby values are baked into the operating principles of daily life in the firm; people who share and will strive for the same values; a narrative that crafts the company’s history into the ongoing development of its culture; and place, which through geography, architecture, and design impacts values and behaviors and so helps to shape culture.1 It is interesting to apply such analysis to your own circumstances.
Another way to monitor your business culture in action is to ask if it is unafraid of change, provides opportunity and motivation, provides stability and security, engages all of its members/employees, leads by example, is clear and appealing to external audiences, and reflects and reaches out to its community.
The more positive your answers, the more likely you are living up to your mission, vision, and values. For sure, when esprit de corps is high, a company’s energies can be focused on what it is really there to do—serve its customers, grow its people, support its community, and fulfill its mission. Another commentator, Michael C. Mankins, puts it like this: “Culture is the glue that binds an organization together and it is the hardest thing for competitors to copy,”2 creating ongoing competitive advantage for your company.
If its internal culture is not defined, embraced, practiced, and nurtured, uncertainty undermines performance, morale, and the company’s ability to attract and retain the best people. Certain brands are known for the strength of their business cultures that have been tested and proven in action during good times and others. These are companies with a clear sense of what they stand for and where they are going and with an inclusive approach to employees. They create workplaces where everybody feels engaged and that they can make a difference. Consider a few examples:
“You are part of something much bigger than you, it is not something you need to blog about to satisfy your ego,” a former Apple employee said.
As renowned leadership analysts James Collins and Jerry Porras observed two decades ago, “The Walt Disney Company’s core values of imagination and wholesomeness stem not from market requirements but from the founder’s inner belief that imagination and wholesomeness should be nurtured for their own sake.”
At the Gore Company (Gore-Tex), associates (rather than employees) are guided by the principles of fairness, freedom, commitment, and consultation. “What can you change?” the company asks.
Toms Shoes, with its One-for-One business model, offers employment with a built-in feel-good factor and the opportunity to put your social conscience to work.
Ride a Southwest Airlines flight and you get a sense of the upbeat, employee-centric spirit that has given the company its distinctive and successful presence.
All of these companies are driven by powerful internal cultures based on values and standards that are firmly established and universally accepted, with codes of behavior that are embraced rather than imposed. Each in its own way offers an example of what can happen when you get your business on course and stay the course as a team from top to bottom—as a team, that is critical . . . a team of individual talents eagerly collaborating for a collective purpose. Members of a successful team respect each other, work for each other, and strive unceasingly for their cause. How does a company best identify ability and nurture it, channel, and coordinate it for the good of all parties? How does it continue to strengthen the fabric of its business culture? Abstract-sounding questions with real significance on a daily basis.
In the physical rehabilitation industry as in every sphere of activity, we are all looking for answers. At BenchMark Rehab Partners we think a lot about how to fulfill our mission, which is “to inspire and empower people to reach their full potential.” Our vision, “by consistently exceeding expectations, we passionately strive to be the outpatient rehabilitation provider, employer, and partner of choice,” along with our mission and our core values, drive us as a company. We ensure as we grow in size that we stay personal in our approach and stay true to our founding goal of providing every patient with access to care from world-class clinicians. We constantly seek to foster everything that is good about our culture and upgrade anything else. We aspire to turn ideas with potential into programs and projects, monitor the results, and make adjustments as necessary.
We are also firm believers in John C. Maxwell’s dictum that “Small disciplines repeated with consistency every day lead to great achievements gained slowly over time.”4 As we build our company, we keep in mind the recruiting philosophy of Herb Kelleher in growing Southwest Airlines: “We will hire someone with less experience, less education, and less expertise, than someone who has more of these things and a rotten attitude. Because we can train people. We can teach people how to lead. We can teach people how to provide customer service. But we can’t change their DNA.”5
1. Coleman J, Gulati D, Segovia W. Passion & Purpose: Stories from the Best and Brightest Young Leaders. Boston, MA: Harvard Business Press; 2012.
2. Mankins M. The defining elements of a winning culture. Harvard Business Review. https://hbr.org/2013/12/the-definitive-elements-of-a-winning-culture. Posted December 19, 2013. Accessed August 10, 2015.
3. Collins J, Porras, J. Building your company’s vision. Harvard Business Review 74:5 https://hbr.org/1996/09/building-your-companys-vision. Accessed August 12, 2015.
4. Maxwell J. The 15 Invaluable Laws of Growth. New York, NY; Hachette Book Group; 2012.
5. Kelleher, H. 8 Herb Kelleher quotes that will teach you everything you need to know about life. www.freeenterprise.com/8-herb-kelleher-quotes-will-teach-you-everything-you-need-to-know-about-life. Posted March 21, 2014. Accessed August 16, 2015.
Walt Porter, MPT, DPT, CEAS, is a PPS member and senior vice president of operations for BenchMark Rehab Partners. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.