Culture is Our Business Strategy

Paul Weinstein / 9th March 2016 / Comments: 1 / From the Blog

A few weeks ago, the following meme was making the rounds on LinkedIn:

My response was that culture IS our strategy. Here’s why.

At Wheelhouse, we’ve taken great care to define, refine and encourage a culture that centers on kindness, helpfulness and generosity. We’re proud of the performance we drive for our clients, but that’s not our strategy. We see being expert digital marketers as “table stakes.” But our strategy is much more about how we deliver than what we deliver.

Our strategy is to foster a culture that breeds empathy—for our clients and for each other. A culture that values honest, but gentle communication. We strive to hold each other accountable, and to work hard and have fun, but always in a way that is thoughtful and purposeful—to create a great place to work, and a great company to work with.

We believe our approach is simply “the right thing to do,” but it is also very good strategy—and one that we’d recommend for almost any business.

The reason? It creates stability.

Now, before I explain further why this is critically and strategically important, I should point out that stability for us doesn’t mean stasis (even though it is a synonym). Nor does it imply a lack of dynamism or growth. In fact, we’ve grown more than 60% year over year for the past three years, without really even trying. We don’t have a sales staff, business development, or much external marketing of our own. We “simply” hire and train great people who deliver great work in the most helpful and valuable way possible. The rest just happens.

So why is stability so important? Well, it’s important in two different, but equally critical ways:

Stable and Growing Supply

1. We have extremely low employee turnover. We work very hard to ensure our team is well cared for, challenged and is doing work we can all be proud of. We care about each other and genuinely enjoy working with one another and this creates the first strategic benefit: we can confidently invest in our team knowing they’ll likely stick around a while. This creates a virtuous loop: employees know we’ll invest in them, which makes them better at what they do, helps deliver better and better performance, which creates more opportunities for engaging and challenging work, which allows us to expose and train more employees—and the cycle continues.

Stable and Growing Demand

2. We have extremely low client churn. Our engagements tend to be long term. We create strong partnerships with our clients by delivering value and maintaining an obsessive focus on helpfulness. The result is little time (if any) spent replacing lost clients. It also means that, as our relationships deepen, the breadth and depth of our engagements do as well. We listen for ways to help and, by doing so, expand an initial SEO engagement into new opportunities for PPC, Analytics, Content Marketing and so forth.

The stability along the axis of supply and demand created by our culture allows us to be thoughtful about how we manage, build and grow our business. It provides us with the ability to see further into the future, leading to more confidence in our investments in people, process and technology. Stability creates the space required to consider the human element in all our work. It allows us to operate in Quadrant II.

Many companies may believe that developing a strong, healthy culture is just a part of doing business. But for us, it is our business. Our values are so central to who we are as a company, we even explicitly prioritize our culture over growth. If growing our business comes at the cost of our culture in any meaningful way, we’re doing it wrong and need to regroup.

That’s because our culture IS our strategy.

It’s that simple.

By Paul Weinstein