Founder and Chair – LMFC
Vice Chair – LMFC
President and CEO – The Bank of Northern Michigan
SVP of Shared Services - LMFC
Senior Vice President, Traverse City Market Manager

It seems that every management book or article starts with the importance of establishing the right culture in your business. They say that without the right culture, the business cannot be successful in the long run and will not meet its long-term goals. However, the specific things to implement to establish and nurture an effective culture are often difficult to measure and implement.

We believe every company has a culture, whether it knows it or not. It might:

  • be consistent with the written culture in that company’s plan or in the owner’s mind, or it might not;
  • center on how the employees, customers, or owners are treated;
  • relate to stewardship of the environment;
  • determine how willing the company is to bend or break the law;
  • relate to the level of honesty that is expected in and out of the company; or
  • determine the safety of the work environment or the products produced by the company.

In our company, we believe our culture is determined by what our employees, clients, owners, and community members observe in our daily behavior. It hopefully is consistent with our vision, but others see it clearly in their interaction with our business. Do we treat our people fairly by offering them fair compensation, realistic opportunities, a nonthreatening and safe work environment, and a feeling that they are valued by the company? Do our customers feel valued and respected? Do our products meet their needs? Is our pricing fair and competitive? Are we honest in our interactions with others, and will we accept any less from our people? Do we do what we say we will do?

We have always believed that the true company values and culture reveal themselves when there is a lot of money at risk. Will we:

  • bend the rules if it pays enough?
  • allow a high-profit customer or a particularly effective salesperson to treat our people poorly?
  • continue to offer predatory high-profit products or services?
  • terminate an employee if he or she does not live up to our culture and values?

Corporate culture and values come from the top of the organization and directly relate to how company leaders behave. Culture and values outlined in a company plan or on a plaque on the wall come to life when employees see company leaders actually living them. It is especially important for the employees to see these values implemented when there is money at risk or the company is in a period of stress.

What are your company values and culture? Are they clearly articulated? Do your employees, clients, owners, and community members see them in action? If so, congratulations. If not, what are your true culture and values? You might be surprised at what you learn. 

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