Differentating your business from your competitors in the marketplace is an ongoing marketing challenge. But there is another extremely important differentiating variable that must be managed consistently and with vigor. That variable is the culture that exists within your organization.
Creating a culture that truly sets your business apart from your competitors is so important that it should be a critical part of your strategic plan. It is amazing how many businesses focus so heavily on things like branding and marketing and so little on nurturing a culture that makes the business strong and difficult to compete against.
So what kind of culture should a business seek to achieve? Among the most important aspects of business culture are:
- A sense of urgency about serving customers at a very high level.
- The sharing of a common goal of excellence across the organization.
- High performing employees.
- An understanding that everyone is accountable for results.
- A shared passion for delivering the highest quality product and/or service.
- Employees who care; who want to excel, who want the business to be highly successful; who work well together; who put their own personal agendas behind organizational goals and agendas and who clearly understand that the business can set itself apart from its competition.
- Having a strategic plan in place that is focused on gaining a competitive advantage in various areas and that is effectively implemented and one that clearly defines the important goals of the business.
In any organization a certain culture exists. Culture can be defined many ways, but we refer to it as "habitual organizational behavior". In other words, organizations tend to repeat behavior in certain ways depending on the way the organization is managed and the type of people hired.
A small minority of organizations take on a high accountability, high performance profile. This becomes the culture that employees become accustomed to and they then strive to meet expectations built around this culture. The vast majority of organizations, however, have cultures that just happen. They aren't "managed" so to speak.
The culture that develops within an organization either develops as a result of intentional and active management or because there is no plan to have a certain culture in place. Businesses that have cultures that are formed without any oversight and planning generally struggle. Those that have active oversight and management of cultural development tend to do well even in tough times.
Over time, "behavior" becomes habitual and can be a problem or opportunity depending on how cultural management is approached. When a culture is deeply rooted it becomes very difficult to change. Differentiating your business from your competitors' cultures in a positive manner takes active and consistent management. And it takes a plan. But it will make a difference in overall performance when done correctly.
The important cultural aspects listed above should be at the core of your cultural differentiation plan. If you can achieve those cultural differentiators, your business will likely have a very good chance of gaining a competitive advantage.
Your strategic plan should contain goals and strategies that address internal culture. If you need help in developing a strategic plan, check out The Strategic Planning Workbook for more information.