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What Is Company Culture Anyways?

Written by Kevin Martlage

Austrian American management consultant, educator, author, and leader in the development of management education Peter Drucker once coined the phrase, “culture eats strategy for breakfast.” While that statement could be discussed, argued, and debated based on your thoughts and approach to leadership and strategy, the essence of what Drucker is trying to say is extremely important for you to consider as a leader and business owner. So, what is company culture anyway? 

Your company culture is ultimately your brand and what makes you unique in a variety of different areas. It can be defined by your company values, attitudes, and beliefs which lead to you providing a supportive and nurturing environment for your employees, your customers, and your stakeholders. 

As a business professional turned consultant who has spent the last 30+ years developing, building, supporting, and leading teams in both non-profit and for-profit organizations around the world, I have had the opportunity to work in a variety of different business cultures and with a lot of simply amazing people. Some of those business cultures have been more supportive and productive than others, but the companies that have had their culture defined as the ‘DNA’ of what they were about were the ones that I remember the most. To me, a defined and supportive business culture is the true X factor of what makes some organizations extraordinary vs just being great. Culture is all about defining how you are serving each other and your customers and then making sure that everything you do is based on the culture and those things that you have identified as being important. 

I spent 15+ years of my professional career working for one of the greatest companies in the world. FedEx and specifically FedexOffice. During my time with FedexOffice, I had the opportunity to advance to different levels of the company and was able to work alongside countless driven and influential people who were all extremely talented at what they did and brought to the table. 

As you may or may not know, FedEx is also one of the largest companies in the world and in 2020 was #50 on the Forbes Top 500 list. In 2020 FedEx had over 850,000+ employees worldwide who were responsible for $69.217 billion in annual revenue. To work in that business culture and alongside so many diverse and great people is something that continues to have a large impact on my view of the value of culture in any company.  

With that many people working in locations all over the world, having their own values, beliefs, backgrounds, and personalities, you can imagine how difficult it may be to ensure that FedEx delivered upon the corporate strategy every day. With so many moving parts, divisions, trucks, packages, opportunities, and responsibilities it could be very easy for things to go off track unless you have a great support mechanism to ensure each employee understands what is important. The FedEx support mechanism I want to share with you supports Drucker’s quote, “culture eats strategy for breakfast” and is something I feel strongly can help take you and your team to the next level. 

FedEx has one sentence that defines their culture and their approach to that culture. It is known as the Purple Promise which has the purpose of building and earning trust and loyalty of the FedEx team members, their customers, and the communities in which they support. 

The Purple Promise is simply this:

“I will make every FedEx experience outstanding.”

The Purple Promise is something that is taught to every employee on their first day and remains an important part of how FedEx conducts their business around the world. The Purple Promise can be used in any situation, any decision, and any action you may be taking as an employee. Whether you are the most entry level package handler or the Chairman of the Board, the Purple Promise is the life blood of FedEx and is evident in everything they do.  

As you begin to understand the true meaning of the Purple Promise you understand that every action matters. Whether that action involves business conduct, integrity, decisions, your team, each employee, each package, every location, every driver, every truck, every plane, and even every individual shipping label, your actions, and the experiences you create are the most important part of what FedEx does. Regardless of the gravity of a situation, the unhappy customer you may be dealing with, or the decision you must make, if you can honestly say you did everything you could do to make that FedEx Experience outstanding then chances are you made the right decision.  

The Purple Promise illustrates Drucker’s point perfectly by saying it is the experience that is the most important, not the strategy. 

As a tree care company owner, if you were to approach everything you do by ensuring that the experience will be outstanding then how can you go wrong in your strategic planning, team member training, customer interactions, completion of your work, and most importantly how you approach your business as an owner and the support of your most asset, your team.  

So, the real question comes down to this. What is your company’s ‘Purple Promise’ and how can you enhance your current work culture to ensure that your team is supported with outstanding experiences? Over the next 3 weeks, we will be investigating various ways to assess, develop, implement, and enhance your current work culture. The overall concept and meaning of the FedEx Purple Promise is an interesting model to consider as you begin the journey of identifying and developing your own effective work culture.

As part of ArboRisk’s Thrive family, we are offering a FREE business culture self-assessment to help you begin to identify some ways in which you can continue to enhance your company’s culture. The assessment is extremely easy to complete and will take you less than 5 minutes. Following the completion of your assessment, you will receive a summary of recommended areas of impact to consider as you continue to enhance your company culture. 

For additional help with company culture, contact a member of the ArboRisk Insurance team! ArboRisk also can work one-on-one with you to create an extraordinary business through our Thrive Risk Management Leadership Development Package!

Tom Dunn