3 minutes reading time (652 words)
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Culture for Punks

Those who know me well will know that I like all things beer. I also like books, and obviously have an interest in business. So I was pretty pleased when a few years ago I stumbled across the book "Business for Punks" by James Watt, co-founder of the hugely successful brewing company BrewDog (great beers by the way, try the Punk IPA).

In the book, Watt shares lessons learned through the meteoric rise of BrewDog, from a humble industrial estate in the north-east of Scotland in 2007 to a global brand employing over 500 people, selling beer in over 50 countries and with over 40 craft beer bars in locations including Tokyo, London, Rome, Barcelona, Berlin and Stockholm.

While I don't necessarily agree with all of Watt's irreverent rantings (eg. "Networking is for fools" and "Advice is for freaks and clowns"), I'm absolutely on board with and pleased to read his thoughts on the importance of culture as a means to business success.

Watt sees company culture as one of just 3 pillars of business success (the others being the quality of the core offering and gross margin), with each pillar being dependent upon the others. He refers to company culture as being "a collective belief system and shared consciousness. It governs the way a company's employees think, feel and act…. [It's] what the company does when it thinks that no one is looking."

In addition to sharing the contribution of a focus on culture to BrewDog's success, Watt references studies that show that employees working in a company with a strong company culture are more than twice as effective as those working in a company with a weak culture.

To a large degree, his perspectives on culture align with my own thoughts and personal and professional experiences, particularly:

"Effective cultures take time. They are built on clarity of purpose, consistency, pure passion and great people. You can start building a great culture by looking after your team and creating an environment in which they can flourish. And every time you are faced with a decision you need to consider how the decision you make may affect that culture. Whilst you can't impose culture, you can cultivate it. It is organic, emergent and fragile."

Watt goes on the describe what he considers to be the five most significant and manageable influences/levers of culture:

  1. Kick-Ass Clarity – Be clear on your mission and vision, find and hire those who share it.
  2. Integrity is Currency – As Watt says "People mimic the behaviour and beliefs of their leaders so make sure you, and the people leading your business, live and breathe the behaviour you want to perpetuate."
  3. Join the Revolution – Engage your team through consistent 360-degree communication, be transparent, and explain the "why" of what you're doing and where your heading. As I say, if you want engaged people, engage your people!
  4. Power to the People – Invest in your people; pay them well, train and develop them personally and professionally, and promote from within wherever possible.
  5. Culture Vultures – Place culture fit at the centre of every hiring decision. Prioritise and invest in your recruitment process and don't take shortcuts - you'll eventually regret them.

There are some simple yet valuable tips here, and it's clear that these principles have served Watt and his Co-Founder Martin Dickie well. Pleasingly, they also align with several components of our own 8 Elements to Success through People© Model (including Clear Vision and Strategy, Recruiting Right and Valuing Others).

Investing in your culture is an absolute must-do for those looking to create and sustain a truly great business. As Watt says, "Get your company culture right and it's pure plutonium. Get it wrong and it's Chernobyl."

Interested in taking your company culture to pure plutonium status? We'd love to chat - call us to explore the options.

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