The Importance of Communication and Company Culture

What’s the culture of your company? Are you entrepreneurial in nature? A constantly improving company? A company that delegates authority and empowers employees? All of those? None of those? Maybe you haven’t thought much about company culture.

A strong company culture gives owners more flexibility to make changes, but only with proper communication

By Paul Deffenbaugh

Deffenbaugh Headshot 1

Companies used to spend a lot of time putting together mission and vision statements, but they seem to have fallen out of favor in the contracting world. Or, at least, they no longer hold the importance they used to. I think some owners went through that process and it didn’t provide the improvements they were seeking. They thought that if they just went through that process of defining the company’s mission, some magic would happen and everything would run smoothly.

Communicating company culture is a constant, never-ending process that needs to be repeated every single day.

Of course, that’s not how it works, and there’s a very simple reason. Most of the time those carefully crafted mission and vision statements were not communicated effectively throughout the company. I’m sure there was some meeting at some time when the owner stood in front of all the employees and rolled out with flourishing fanfare the mission statement. Then everyone left the room and went back to doing what they had been doing all along.

That’s because communicating company culture is a constant, never-ending process that needs to be repeated every single day.

I recently had a conversation with the ownership and employees of a contracting company that has been around for decades and gone through a change of ownership. It’s the kind of company in our industry that often gets stale and, no matter how well managed, seems to be resistant to change and improvement. But not this company. This was an entrepreneurial environment that embraced change and was tackling some very large, somewhat risky, innovations because the people in the company felt the industry was changing in a significant way and they wanted to be in front of the change, not trailing it.

In talking to these people, I kept hearing a couple of phrases repeated over and over from senior management down to field employees. One was the directive to “Do the right thing.” Everyone in the company knew that they were empowered to make the right choice for the benefit of the customer and the company. Profitability was important to this organization, but if doing the right thing cost a few more dollars, it was the path everyone in the company followed.

Another phrase used was “I trust them.” Ownership and managers up and down the line spoke about trusting people to do the right thing. They didn’t feel the need to oversee direct operations because they trusted the people who were doing that work to do it the right way, the way the company wanted it done. In fact, the CEO claimed that he wasn’t really necessary to the operation of the company. He could disappear for a couple of months, and everything would work just fine.

The remarkable thing about this is that this kind of steady culture is occurring in a time of constant change as the industry reacts to the COVID pandemic shutdowns, soaring costs, decreasing supplies and longer lead times. On a dayto- day basis, these problems are causing thorny issues that people need to solve quickly and efficiently. With the kind of culture this company has created, that is much easier to do. Everyone keeps his or her head down and focuses on doing the right thing because they are trusted to do it.

As a result, the company can take on ambitious improvement projects designed to keep it at the forefront of the industry rather than being reactive and constantly putting out fires.

Yes, a mission and vision statement can help you achieve that kind of culture. More importantly, though, communicating the nature of your company’s culture on a daily basis by the way you manage, delegate and reward the work will have a far greater impact on your company than words on a paper that are framed and hung on a wall.