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Opinion: Culture more than just a positive attitude

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What is corporate culture?

According to Inc.com, it’s “the shared values, attitudes, standards and beliefs that characterize members of an organization and define its nature." Simple enough. However, this common human resources buzzword can elicit eye rolls from seasoned professionals. After all, how do you incorporate tangible changes to an entire company based on a nebulous concept?

Creating a positive culture has gained traction in the corporate community for the last decade or so. Most companies recognize its value as a living, breathing entity that requires constant improvement as the organization grows. The challenge is that it's always been an intangible factor in employee satisfaction, albeit an essential one.

A great workplace is more than posh offices or sushi lunches. Being surrounded by teammates who care as much as you and want to be better tomorrow than they are today – that's a great workplace. Our company looks to hire here first. Then, it becomes a matter of filling "seats on the Paragon bus." We look for employees who want to invest in their position – who want to own it, develop it and realize everyone plays a part. And, if an employee struggles to perform, we first look to see if we can reassign them to a seat they can succeed. It's the "don't judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree" adage. The trials of managing and motivating a culture become more comfortable with the right people in the right seats.

As corny as it sounds, teamwork makes the dream work. We highly stress teamwork every day because it doesn't matter how much strategy we deploy; if someone plays solo, we'll consistently lose to a team. This kind of culture gives the most significant chance of continuous success. It's also a foundational element to the next, equally important, business strategy: vision.

What is vision, and why is it so important? We define vision as a realistic, credible, attractive future for the organization. Casting your company's vision is critical. Your company has a vision, right? It should. Without it, forward-thinking doesn't exist, and a company goes nowhere. And, like culture, it isn't static.

Vision is not just website language or CEO talk. It is a leader's responsibility to embed it into the entire team. One of my favorite concepts is encouraging staff to "think like customers — act like owners." Chick-fil-A is an excellent example of this. The vision is communicated from behind the counter, by servers, in drive-thru lines and so on.

Casting vision is the responsibility of our entire staff. I can't stress this enough because rowing harder will not help if the boat goes in the wrong direction. When striving for excellence for our employees and our clients, everyone needs to look in the same direction. That's why vision is so significant.

That brings us to the final point: strategy. There's a saying that "culture eats strategy for breakfast." I believe pairing culture with vision builds a more robust strategy. Our team is encouraged to think big, have fun and do good while aiming towards an excellent client experience.

Just imagine having a whole company of people that do this. It's big and powerful.

Donnie Brawner is CEO and owner of Paragon 360 and Paragon Fabrication. He can be reached at dbrawner@paragon360.com.

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