I was having some food the other night with my good friend Geoff Storm and he got talking to me about how cool the tour at the New Belgium brewery in Colorado was. What impressed him the most was how they try to help employees be more green, and have built a really cool corporate culture (see the video below for some context). And they’re not afraid to show that culture off to visitors.
Things like flexible hours, bringing pets to work, video games- all those things you used to hear about the way Google and a lot of other silicon valley startups operated were the stuff of legend. But is it also good for business?
I think the argument is two-fold. First, businesses do have an enormous amount of control over their own culture – and investing in that culture can go a long way towards attracting candidates that are the best and the brightest. I’m not saying that every company needs a pinball machine or nap time – but what I am saying is that in addition to building the mechanisms for making cash, businesses also need to invest (there’s that word again) in things or policies that will also get them kick-ass employees who WANT to come to work every day and make the business as successful as it can be. From Geoff’s story, I think that New Belgium is pretty big on fun – but I’d also guess that translates into lower turnover and a more enthusiastic workforce.
The second part of this argument is just as important. See what Geoff just did for New Belgium? They shared some of their culture with every person taking a tour, every hour of every day. And many of those people I’m sure are impressed . They come back to wherever they are from and tell the story of the tour to their friends. Not only that, maybe they identify just a bit more with the company and that, my friends, can have a huge impact on purchasing decisions.
You have to wonder what the marketing value of those shared experiences are. What essentially is happening is New Belgium just got someone from upstate NY to indirectly endorse their product, not based on what it is, but based on the story behind it. That has value.
Corporate culture can also be a secondary source of revenue. Look at the amazing streams of revenue that companies like 37 Signals and Zappos have built through their seminars, books and consulting gigs – all based around talking to people about how they run their businesses – about their culture.
The door swings both ways though, and cultural perceptions spread like wildfire through social media channels now. I’d bet you could not only name 3 companies that have a culture that you’d like to be a part of. I’d also bet that you could name a lot more that you’d never want to be a part of. Is one of them YOUR business? Let me know in the comments! What’s the company out there that you think has the most amazing corporate culture – and what’s the one with the worst?