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The 7 Most Important Things You Need to Know About Shaping a Company Culture

People discussing in group

April 27, 2016

By: Jackie Reed

Over the past decade, culture has catapulted to the top of the priority list for most companies. Even giant, multinational organizations are emulating “startup culture,” which embraces creativity, autonomy, and camaraderie. Meanwhile, concepts like personal branding and design thinking are changing the way employees view and present themselves in the workforce.

But what does culture really mean? How does it come through in the context of the hospitality industry, where traditional values are colliding with new regulations and processes? Most importantly, how does a leader in the hospitality business shape a winning culture? Here’s what you need to know:

Culture Comes Before Everything

Culture is the foundation of an organization. It determines how people are treated, how connected they feel at work, and ultimately, how well they perform on the job.

Culture also radiates to business partners, and eventually to customers. With this realization as a backdrop, it becomes clear that culture comes before everything, including business strategies and financial goals. When you can create a positive culture where employees feel both appreciated and appreciative, success will follow and the numbers will fall into place.

Culture is Different from Atmosphere

It’s easy to confuse culture with atmosphere. The best way to understand the two is to think of culture as an emotional connection that is conveyed through various elements in a workplace atmosphere, such as décor, location, artwork, etc. An aesthetically appealing atmosphere is not a substitute for culture.

A Culture Cannot Be Strategized

Your company culture must be clearly defined and communicated. It needs to be deliberate, visible, and reinforced. However, a culture cannot be strategized or fabricated. In facilitating the culture you envision, you have to remain true to your personal values and align them with those of the organization.

You Hire and Fire Based on Culture

In order for a culture to sustain and thrive, you will sometimes have to make tough decisions. Put simply, you hire and fire based on culture. You might be forced to pass on hiring a candidate with spectacular skills because their character doesn’t fit your culture. Likewise, you might have to let someone go because they are not upholding (or worse, are undermining) your cultural values.

It’s easy to mistake culture for personal relationships, but the two are not necessarily connected. That person you fire could potentially be a close friend or work buddy, but you have to do what is right for the company.

Your Culture Shows to Your Customers

Perhaps most importantly, customers can sense—immediately upon “hello”—whether a company treats its employees fairly or poorly. This is especially true in hospitality, which is fast-paced and high-strung even in the healthiest of workplaces.

If you don’t facilitate a culture that supports and empowers your staff, they will become disengaged. At this point, they will care less about your customers, which will ultimately reflect on your brand.

Culture is a Continuous Project

One of the biggest mistakes leaders make is thinking that a culture they have built is self-motored and no longer needs attention. Once a culture is left unattended, it can easily dissipate or dismantle. You are always working on and working for the culture you have created.

Culture is a key component of your business strategy, too. Every decision you make should be determined by whether or not the predicted outcome integrates with your company’s core values, internally and externally.

Before You Can Teach, You Must Learn

Whether you’re entering a new organization in a leadership position or working your way up the ladder with your current employer, it’s important to approach culture as a learning process. There is nothing worse than a leader who comes in and makes changes without seeking input and learning from those who have been there for years or even decades. Every culture is unique, and you can’t rely solely on past studies or experiences to shape the culture at hand.

Be a Better Leader

Speaking of learning, to become a truly great leader, you should invest in yourself and your career. SDSU’s HTM Master’s Program teaches emerging leaders how to find their purpose, inspire others, and become creators of culture. Want to get a better feel for the program? Check out these 5 recent HTM guest lectures that will help your career. They’re free to watch!


jackieAuthor: Jackie Reed, CEO at T.S. Restaurants Management (LinkedIn)


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