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Taking Care of Your Most Valuable Asset

Updated: May 28, 2020

Using your values to drive company culture.

What is the most valuable asset in your company? If you poll 100 business owners on that question, nearly all of them will intuitively respond “My People.”

Yet - many business owners don’t think strategically about the care and feeding of their most valuable asset. One of my greatest mentors told me that the most important role of a leader is to take care of their people. If you do that, your people will take care of your business!

I recently sat with Mark Mitford, principal of HR Catalyst Consulting, to talk about things business owners should do now to attract and retain the best people - their most valuable asset.

According to Mark (and I happen to agree), company culture is the most important tool a business can use to recruit and retain top talent and therefore maximize your business value. As I have occupied the CEO seat throughout the years, I have often said that the most important role a CEO plays is the keeper of the company culture. I think the CEO title should be changed to CCO - Chief Culture Officer. I’m sad to report that I haven’t always been a good steward of it.

Too many people think that culture is event-driven. It’s not.

"Culture eats strategy for breakfast." - Peter Drucker

Company culture can be defined as the written and unwritten rules of how things get done in your organization. Every company has a culture, whether or not it is leader-driven, employee-driven or crisis-driven. When managed properly, culture is something you can use for strategic advantage for your company.

If you really want to work on your company culture, where do you start? Leader driven culture always starts with Mission and core values. So, if you haven't looked at your mission and core values recently, it's probably time to take a hard look at them.

Are your mission statement and core values just platitudes that hang in a frame on the wall or on your company’s website? Or are they something that your people live every single day. Heck, forget about your people - start by looking in the mirror. Do you really believe in your core values? Are you really living them out?

If someone asked your employees what your personal core values are, would they say the things that you have written on the wall or would they give some other answer?

Go look at your company mission statement and core values right now. Do they honestly represent who you are and how you do business? Core values and mission have to be genuine - because if they aren’t, everyone knows it. Your people. Your vendors. And, even your customers.

If, after you honestly think about your core values and mission, they don’t fit - it’s time for a re-write. And, of course, if you don’t have written statements, now is a good time to start. Mission and core values drive culture, so if they need to be revised or created - now is the time.

It's time to invest in your culture.

Once you are satisfied with those, start looking for ways to integrate them into your day to day activities. It’s time to invest in your culture. And it doesn’t have to be expensive either. In fact, it can be nearly free!

Start by practicing catching people living out your mission or values - then you should recognize that behavior. Jack Welch, the iconic business leader who led GE to be one of the most profitable and successful companies in the world for two decades, sent handwritten notes to his people. A handwritten note is super inexpensive, and it sends a longer lasting message than an email or a kind word. I’ve used handwritten notes for most of my career - written either to my people or to their families. For the right person, a genuine, handwritten note to a spouse about how appreciative you are for their support goes farther than you can imagine.

Another easy and inexpensive way to invest in your people to make having fun a way of life.

Hold a regular cookout in the parking lot. The business owner can grill hotdogs or hamburgers, and ask people to bring sides to share. One of my companies held a monthly “potluck” lunch where everyone brought in a dish to share from home - and it was a smorgasbord of great food and fun every month! And it didn’t cost the company a dime.

Heck, one time, in a company in Chicago, I didn’t have extra cash for incentives for hitting company targets, so I told the team that if we hit our financial goal for the quarter, I’d rent a dunking booth, and the employees would take turns trying to dunk me and the rest of the leadership team. The leadership team hated that announcement, but the team pulled together, hit the goal, and took their shots! I was smart, though… It was a warm spring day, so I had the dunking booth delivered early, and filled it up so the sun would warm up the water… little did I know that my team had a different plan! When I came out to the parking lot, I found our team lined up with bags of ice, dumping them into the formerly warm water. I think that did more for morale than anything else!

Having a set of corporate values also makes it easier to find the right people. When you have great values, it is easy to evaluate new hires to determine if they share those values, and therefore a great fit for the organization.

And, by the way, ANY company can have a great culture, regardless of what business they are in. A great example of this is the Pike Place Fish Market in Seattle. Fish mongering is arguably the worst job on the planet (don’t tell that to Mike Rowe!). I mean, after all, you have to get up in the middle of the night, go down to the docks to meet the incoming boats, haul the fish up to the market, put them all on ice, and then hawk your products to the tourists passing by. But, if you've ever been to the Pike Place Fish Market, you know that they have an amazing corporate culture. All of the people working there have a great time, they engage their customers, and they run an amazing business. So if a fish market can have a great culture, so can you. (If you want to learn more about the Pike Place Fish Market, read the great book FISH! by Stephen C. Lundin, Harry Paul, and John Christiansen. It’s a classic. One of my favorites, and was required reading at many of my companies.)

Also, you don’t want to miss our most recent Maximize Business Value Podcast, where HR Catalyst principal Mark Mitford joins us and provides a wealth of golden nuggets on how to build a great corporate culture, even during turbulent times. In it, you’ll hear why most business owners focus on the bottom performers, how toxic leaders can destroy corporate culture, and how nurturing your leadership team may be the best investment you can make in your business and culture.

So, stop right now, and go examine your corporate values, or if you don’t have them, reach out to us and we’ll give you some FREE resources to get started.

Message me on LinkedIn or on our Facebook Page or email me or call my cell and tell me HOW you are going to upgrade your corporate culture. It can have more impact on your business value than you think! What are you going to do today - to Maximize Business Value?

And remember, we’re here to help. If we can help you in any way don’t hesitate to reach out!


Check out the Mastery Partners Podcast on the same topic!

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