If your company doesn’t have a strong internal culture, you’re failing. Period.
Because if people aren’t happy, if they are constantly thinking of a way to get out, they will be producing work that reflects that. And in turn, your company’s output will reflect that. Simple as that. And it baffles me that more people don’t understand this.
Because the truth is, companies lie.
I like to tell people I am an HR-driven CEO. It’s the best way I can communicate to people how strongly I feel about that opening statement. My agency, VaynerMedia, has gone from twenty employees to over five hundred in the last forty months, and in that timespan, preserving the culture has been an enormous priority for me. I so intensely did not want to become what I had seen so many other companies become, and that’s a place for unhappy minds.
Because the truth is, companies lie. It’s very easy to say “I care about my employees”. Extremely easy, actually. I bet you’re mouthing the words as you’re reading this. But it’s much harder to actually do it. So, most companies take that easy route. They talk and talk and talk about the benefits of working for them, without actually putting in the work. When it comes down to it, nothing can happen without someone sitting down and saying “We are going to do this.” At the end of the day, do you want to just say it, or do you want to actually be living it?
There are many ways that VaynerMedia has been able to retain such a strong sense of culture, and they are certainly not all because of me. But I made a few key decisions early on, set standards that I did not want to be shifted whatsoever, to ensure that we started out right.
But there is one fundamental aspect that I always recommend to any CEO, leader or boss. It has to do with hiring and firing.
Way too many companies base decisions of hiring and firing on money. Example: “Oh, we have the budget to hire another designer. Let’s do it.” It becomes merely a financial transaction, which I fundamentally do not agree with.
Because hiring and firing are emotional
You’re dealing with people, not contracts. To treat an individual’s job prospects as a financial return or investment is the wrong way to approach it. You need to consider the emotional side of this action. What is the decision going to do to the collective community? If I fire someone who is so popular internally because they have great people skills, will I hurt everybody else? Can I push that person into a different direction, to help them stay?
Or, even: Can I help them get another position outside the company over the span of sixty days, rather than firing them in one day? That costs me a lot more money, but it does so much more in the company culture.
Never underestimate what great culture can do. You may think that amazing projects and awards and accolades come of hard work, or the right people being on a team together, or a great leader. It’s all those, too, of course. But when it comes down to it, people need to be happy with where they are. And that begins, ends and always has to do with who you hire, and how people leave.