Cultivating Business Culture [ACT Like A Pro #169]

Business culture can be cultivated, much like a family.

What is business culture? While it’s hard to define, culture exists and it is felt by everyone. What’s most interesting is, culture of a business is either created or it’s just simply tolerated.

Culture shifts when new leaders take the helm and when new people join the work team. Culture can be changed intentionally with a conscious effort, and it often needs an adjustment when there is damage to repair in relationships or when fissures appear in how a business is run.

Now, I have a story for you of Tom and Bob and their new brother-in-law, Jim.

The family culture had gotten off-kilter when Tom and Bob mostly took over the leadership from Dad, yet Dad demanded they hire Jim. While the brothers were “in charge,” Dad still “ruled.”

In the habit of their family culture, while they were angry, they didn’t dare talk to Dad about it. They tolerated Dad’s decision—until they couldn’t anymore.

It came to a tipping point when Tom blew up, and Big Ron, a long-time employee but not a family member, stepped in to manage the personalities.

Let’s back up a minute.

Instead of trying to talk through a solution with Dad and Bob, Tom ignored Jim as much as possible, generally angry at him just for being alive.

By the time I met the family, Bob and even Big Ron had basically been protecting Jim from Tom (and Tom from Jim) for months, tiptoeing around the two just trying to keep them from seeing each other, but not changing anything. The operation was tolerating the culture of Tom’s temper and anger at the situation and Jim’s very real incompetence doing the job he had been assigned by Dad.

Sadly, the very culture that Tom hated—the way his Dad ruled from a place of anger and demanding silence—was the same way he was acting. The culture they allowed seemed likely to continue for another generation.

This tale has a satisfying conclusion, but it was still painful for everyone involved after Tom’s outburst, Big Ron stepping in, Jim finally speaking up that he never wanted to work in the operation, and the dust settled with everyone talking it out. After I coached the group through this “situation,” they developed a business culture that was created by everyone, not simply allowed to exist from anger, indistinct roles, conflicting stories, and the rest.

A culture that people believe in, flourish in, and love is essential for the long-term health of a farm. A culture of coaching and learning is about creating shared visions over time.

This isn’t just consultant talk; it’s about sustainability and viability of the farm, the operation, the business in more than just the product or service you sell.

Learn more about Tom, Bob, and Jim

Culture is just one of the aspects that every ag leader needs to understand. You can read more about this story start-to-finish in the company culture module of “Management Skills for Management 101” course now available on the Ag Lead University platform.

If this story resonates with you, or if you think your business needs to approach culture differently, check out the course and get it for your whole team. It's a 4-week course with about an hour of work per week, and it's great to have the whole team take it simultaneously to really dig in and discuss the topics, and how to implement them right away.