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What is Company Culture? CEOs Share Their Views

The term ‘company culture’ may be used to define a company’s overall personality and how individuals behave within the organization. The company culture could include several different elements such as the company mission, ethics, goals, values and work environment.

One of the most important aspects of a company culture is that it is ‘pre-existing’, i.e. it isn’t something that is brought in by the employees. So even if a company has a single employee or no employees, it would still have a culture.

The Harvard Business Review states that culture is the guiding force behind non-mandatory behavior of the employees. It is what employees do when they don’t have a handbook to refer to. It is the culture of the organization that teaches employees to respond to unexpected service requests.

The Importance of Company Culture

Nobody wants a workplace that employees hate coming to every day. Ideally, employees should feel excited about the general atmosphere of the workplace, new challenges and cooperating with their co-workers. A job isn’t meant to cause stress in an employee’s life. So even if the work is hard, the company culture should be supportive of the employee’s overall well being and growth.

Research suggests that employees are likely to feel content with the work when their personal values and needs match those of the workplace. This prerequisite allows them to develop healthier relationships at the workplace and also renders them more productive.

Alternatively, when employees work in an organization where they fail to fit into the company culture, they are automatically less happy and have a higher chance to quit the company if a good opportunity comes their way.

Top CEOs on Company Culture

Brian Chesky, the CEO, and co-founder of Airbnb has been successful in leading his fairly young company and has a few tips to share about creating a good company culture:

  • Hire excellent workers, the ones who intimidate you

This may sound confusing but Brian believes that it is crucial to building a highly talented team, a team that might even make you feel uncomfortable with its skill and knowledge. This will ultimately probe you to up your game in order to match their pace.

  • Keep the focus on building the organization

According to Chesky, your original product may not be brilliant, and that is okay. But if you cannot build a strong organization around that product, it will fail to endure. He says that think of the organization as a child. The parents are its founders. It would be disheartening if the parent outlived their child, right? Similarly, it would be tragic if the founders outlived the organization and witnessed it succeed and fall.

  • Culture development is an investment

Developing organizational culture is similar to making an investment. It might interfere with the progress of the company in the short term, but it definitely pays off in the long run.

According to Shellye Archambeau, CEO, MetricStream, culture is not about gourmet meals and free yoga sessions. In successful organizations, culture is focused on creating an environment that thrives on shared principles and values. Company culture refers to the basic ideals of an organization that are critical for daily decision making.

A good corporate culture will allow employees to thrive collectively while achieving all kinds of personal and professional goals. The employees are motivated to put in better work and this, in turn, results in greater customer/client satisfaction and improved performance.

Here are some other tips offered by Archambeau with regards to building company culture:

  • Invest time in listening

Squarespace is a startup firm that does website designing. One of its most distinguishing features is that it maintains an open, flat culture with minimal management levels between executives and staff members. How does this help? Well, employees feel confident when voicing their opinions and open communication is vital for maintaining a healthy company culture. Shelleye recommends distributing regular feedback forms among employees to get acquainted with their grievances and requests. Analyze how many employees have actually participated in the survey and how many questions have been answered in the form. These small cues will give you an idea about the company’s culture and whether or not it is aligned with the corporate values.

  • Focus on collaboration

Ken Blanchard is a renowned leadership expert and has much insight to offer when it comes to developing company culture. According to Blanchard, a single individual can never be as smart as a group of individuals. And this idea is understood by all effective leaders of companies and organizations.

To put it simply, a perfect corporate culture gets developed when everyone works as a team in order to achieve common goals. In such companies, each individual’s contribution adds up to drive the company’s achievements.


Tony Hsieh, Zappos CEO, is a strong advocate of company culture. According to him, the people hired by a company become its representatives everywhere, inside and outside of the workplace. You hire one person who doesn’t fit into your company culture and they could ruin your reputation in front of a customer or client. Therefore, hiring the right people for your organization is one the first steps towards building company culture.

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