Culture should be the cornerstone of every company. Every business owner should know this by now, but many don’t realize what exactly culture should be (it goes beyond just pizza parties and paid lunches) and why it’s so crucial to the success of their companies. 

The title of this article should read as an obvious statement. It’s a statement that most business owners would never disagree with. Yet it’s frequently the last thing they focus on, which can be an enormous mistake. One can create the ‘right’ company from a purely business perspective. Still, if the culture doesn’t flourish along with the business talent who helped create it, its success won’t stay for long, and operations will suffer.

When I founded Ashcroft Capital, a real estate investment firm that acquires and improves large multifamily communities in top U.S. metros, I knew culture needed to be a strong focus. When Birchstone Residential, our own property management company, and Birchstone Construction, our in-house construction arm, were founded, it was equally important to recognize and cultivate the individuality of each company. While these three companies are connected, they are uniquely different and required great attention to ensuring we were creating the right culture for each – essentially from scratch. Today, our companies are built with more than 200 team members who thrive on each organization’s unique culture.

Of course, the knowledge and leadership experience you’ve acquired over the years will influence every new business you’re part of, but you can’t simply copy and paste. What worked for one company won’t necessarily work for another. So, as I thought about what I wanted Birchstone Residential to evolve into, how I wanted it to stand out from the competition, it was obvious: culture. Multifamily is an interesting industry where there are various customers – your investors, your residents, and your teams. I knew the cornerstone to effectively connect with and service all three audiences was through our culture. 

Culture has become somewhat of a buzzword – with many companies taking a passive approach to culture. They might believe it’s not something they can control, so they sometimes neglect it and think it will work itself out. Like HubSpot Chief People Officer, Katie Burke, says: “When it comes to culture, most companies have a can’t-do attitude.”

But leaving your culture up to chance is destructive not only to your employees and your clients but also to your organization. Culture isn’t just pizza parties or paid lunches; it isn’t a strategy document created with good intentions that never gets looked at again. Culture is the way a company lives and breathes. To nurture culture, leaders must commit to intentional, distinct, and purposeful initiatives. 

Birchstone Residential’s mission is simple: We are people serving people.

And here is why we believe that culture is so important:

Strengthening Loyalty

If your teams dread coming into work, you have a problem. Disengaged employees don’t value their work, nor do they find much purpose in collaborating with other team members to improve operational efficiency and client service. And professional development? It’s futile if employees don’t feel united with the business.

It’s all about connectedness. Our team laughs hard together, they work better together, and collaboration soars. They’ve become a very tight-knit group and consider themselves family (their words, not mine). They tackle challenges and accomplish goals together because they push each other to go the extra mile. They know they have a support system behind them to help them through the challenges and celebrate their wins together. 

Employees want to feel like they are contributing to something that’s larger than themselves. Jim Goodnight, co-founder and CEO of SAS, wrote on his company’s website: “Treat employees like they make a difference, and they will.” I couldn’t agree more. 

Happy employees are 45 percent more productive than team members who are just ‘satisfied’ in their careers. This means that more work will get done, which will also enhance your client service efforts.

Happy employees, happy customers. 

Service Above Self

Clients won’t be able to love a company unless its employees love it first. When you establish a culture-based company that empowers and develops high-performing employees, then, and only then, can that passion extend to your customers. 

Hiring exceptional employees is an investment, and you want to be sure you’re investing the time and resources into the right people. We equip and empower our team with the resources and opportunities that will allow them to succeed with confidence. If they discover an internal or client-facing issue, they know they have the insight and expertise to resolve it. If they see an opportunity to accelerate our success, they have the assurance to bring it to our attention. 

But providing the best service doesn’t just depend on a person’s professional development, it’s also contingent upon how leaders chose to invest in their wellbeing as well. 

Curating Your Brand Identity

Your culture is the life force of your company. It’s what makes you unique and sets you apart from competitors in your industry. 

If you boast authenticity, breathing that into your culture will show your clients that you are unique. The more your clients identify and connect with your brand, the more they’ll want to interact with you and advocate for you. You can only curate this relationship through your employees. But remember, you cannot do this through one person alone. It takes executive oversight, intention, purpose, and committed participation from everyone at the company. 

We promised our clients and community that we are — and always will be — sincere, genuine, honest, and transparent. Our culture is the glue that keeps our organization together, and our clients are the ones that stand to benefit from such an engaged workforce. 

You need to build a community within your business that people want to be a part of. That’s making culture the cornerstone of your community.