The Swartz Report: Two Important Lessons from the KC Chamber Small Business Council Meeting

Don_Swartz 2Post written by Donald Swartz, President and Principal at Swartz + Associates, Inc. | Lover of Chiefs, Royals and golf | Avid “Cruiser” | Poker Enthusiast

I recently attended the quarterly Kansas City Chamber of Commerce Small Business Council meeting.

Matt Condon, the current Chairman of the Board of the Chamber, spoke to us about the aspects of running a small business. During his presentation, there were two concepts I wrote down that stood out.

The first comment was a simple sentence.  “Culture eats strategy for lunch.”

Wow, how simple and how powerful is that?  For the next few minutes, I really didn’t listen to what he was saying because I was grasping this comment.

I immediately thought, “Have I been wasting my time with office planning meetings?  What about the strategic marketing 3 – 5 year plan and where we want to be as a company?”

I wouldn’t say panic settled in, but I kept thinking about this sentence and wondering if I was missing the boat?  “Culture eats strategy for lunch”, “Culture east strategy for lunch”…

The second concept which stayed with me throughout the remainder of Matt’s talk focused on the necessity of all employees to share and believe in your vision of what your company is doing.

If they don’t believe in the work product…if they aren’t working to reach the common goal…then they aren’t a fit for your company. They may be good workers and have the right skill set, but they may just not be the right employee for your company.

company cultureOn the drive back to my office and throughout the rest of the week, I repeatedly asked myself how this applied to my company.

Are we on the same page at work?

Have I created a good culture and work environment?

Does everyone share the vision and/or have they been a part of determining the vision?

Upon reflection, I feel good about where we are and where we’re going. Our culture is collaborative.

Everyone is free to speak their opinion (and they usually do).

Everyone has a responsibility to make the company better.

And everyone certainly believes in the product.

When all of these things are in place, the culture does, in fact, eat strategy for lunch.

All that said, we must continue to be strategic in our business plan. If the culture is great but we lose sight of the vision and the plan for the future, we will spin our wheels and ultimately not be successful. Without the vision and plan, culture and morale will decline and employees will ultimately not feel a part of the success. This is definitely a delicate balance.

The takeaway: I’m fully on board with creating and maintaining the best culture to allow our employees to succeed. It has truly allowed us to be successful as we start our fifth year in business. But I’m also mindful of continuing to build and implement our strategy and vision.

I’m appreciative of my employees, my clients, my family and my Advisory Board. They have allowed our company to flourish in the last four years of business.

I look forward to the next four (and more!) and will do everything I can to maintain the culture that has allowed us to succeed.

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