Recession Prep Question: How important is the right culture to business survival?

Paul Segreto
7 min readJul 13, 2022

I’m so glad I have your attention. I say that as I’m seeing significant increases in daily views of recent articles and subscribers at Acceler8Success Cafe. The reason, of course is the current series, ‘Preparing for War: You vs. Recession’. Well, we’re in this war together as it would be very hard to believe that any entrepreneur, restaurateur, solopreneur and any small business owner isn’t already being impacted by economic uncertainty. Preparing to win this war right now is paramount to our survival.

The past two articles in this series centered around positive experiences for customers and employees alike. The two go hand-in-hand like peas & carrots but actually more like peanut butter & jelly. Have you ever tried pulling apart a peanut butter & jelly sandwich? If you have the visual in your mind, you’ll picture the two substances essentially being stuck together.

And if you’re an aficionado of peanut butter & jelly sandwiches as I am, you’ll agree that the two ingredients to this wonderful sandwich are dependent upon each other. If you don’t agree, may I refer you to a section of bread that only has peanut butter with the jelly not having been spread to that corner. It’s just not as good as the rest of the sandwich.

The customer experience is dependent upon the employee experience. The employee experience is dependent upon the customer experience. It’s a simple, yet complex scenario. An employee has control of the customer experience in how he or she interacts with a customer and along with other components of the experience (environment and product), an employee, the one interacting with the customer enhances the experience. This employee is key to bringing it all together.

Conversely, an employee is dependent upon the customer to interact back with him or her, sharing in the experience, creating a bond. However, only if the employee is of the right mindset, one that is driven by his or her personal experience with the business will he or she be able to effectively interact with the customer. Therein lies the complexity to positive experiences. Only with a strong foundation on each side of the bread can the bread be brought together to create the desired result.

In order for positive experiences to be achieved, the right culture within an organization is paramount.

Culture lives and breathes in all organizations. It must be nurtured — fed and taken care of. If sick, the virus causing the sickness must be addressed. In the case of cancer, it must be identified, isolated and removed — making sure to properly treat closely affected areas to be sure of total elimination. If healthy, it must continue to be fortified — an immune system built, and new well-being programs developed.

At the end of the day, culture is a work in progress! It must be fluid. It must fill in the cracks and gaps and reach its own level. It must be understood by all. It must be allowed to grow. But it must be managed. The key is whether you do so reactively or proactively!

Recently, I read an interesting article about strategy and its effect on culture, “Why Strategy Matters and How it Influences Culture”. The author brought up several key points:

Does strategy matter?

If you do not think that it matters, then you are in good company. There are many who question the value of strategy. And I see many companies where there is no formal strategy; the informal strategy is to keep doing what has worked in the past or to chase what is fashionable today.

Strategy v Execution

When it comes to questioning strategy there are two schools that are particularly prominent. First, there is the school of execution. The execution school which says that strategy is waste of time. Why? Because strategies are generic-obvious and what matters is execution. The ability to turn strategy into the daily lives of the organization. Clearly, there is some truth in this school. Strategy which cannot be operationalized is waste of time-resource.

Strategy v Culture

Then there is the school that says, “culture eats strategy for breakfast”. Yes, culture is powerful. Culture determines what gets done and how it gets done. A strategy that does not take into account the fit with culture will meet lots of resistance. Getting people to enact such a strategy will be like fighting a guerilla war with an enemy who is patient and cunning. What is forgotten is that culture can be and is influenced-shaped-shifted through strategy.

To see strategy and culture as being separate and distinct is a gross misunderstanding. This misunderstanding arises due to our reductionist-analytical thinking. Strategy and culture are interlinked. Put differently, if you change strategy, you will take actions that will influence the culture. And if you change culture, it will eventually influence the strategy.

Corporate Culture as defined by Investopedia (aka Business Culture, Company Culture, Organizational Culture)

Corporate culture refers to the beliefs and behaviors that determine how a company’s employees and management interact and handle outside business transactions. Often, corporate culture is implied, not expressly defined, and develops organically over time from the cumulative traits of the people the company hires.

A company’s culture will be reflected in its dress code, business hours, office setup, employee benefits, turnover, hiring decisions, treatment of clients, client satisfaction, and every other aspect of operations.

A commonly used definition by Inc. Magazine

Corporate culture refers to the shared values, attitudes, standards, and beliefs that characterize members of an organization and define its nature. Corporate culture is rooted in an organization’s goals, strategies, structure, and approaches to labor, customers, investors, and the greater community.

Positively Memorable Experiences… They’re Not Only for Customers!

Several months ago, I shared my article, “Positively Memorable Experiences… They’re Not Only for Customers”. The focus of that article was on the franchisor / franchisee relationship, but the tenets of a strong relationship are paramount in developing a strong culture regardless of the organization, franchise or otherwise. The following 5 points are from that article and now shared here with some editing, making them applicable to relationships within any organization:

  1. Understanding the true meaning and spirit of relationships. This must be shared and exemplified at every point of contact with all within the organization.
  2. Developing the right culture at all levels. Be careful — culture is also defined as bacteria. This takes time and commitment, and is a reflection of how people, whether employees, suppliers or others, are treated at all times.
  3. Creating an environment of truth, trust and transparency based upon open, two-way communication — the cornerstone of creating the right culture. Think of a three-legged stool that could hold a great deal of weight when fully intact yet would immediately fall under its own weight if one leg was compromised.
  4. Establishing your organization as family. Treat them as such but understand that this is not the typical type of family of yesteryear with subservience to the head of the household. Mutual respect is paramount.
  5. Building an environment whereby all are focused on mutual goals and objectives. All must sing from the same hymnal, and not just for dress rehearsal; be sure everyone has the hymn book; ideally, one that is based upon collaborative efforts.

Some may refer to the above as being great in theory, and not really practical. But just think what could happen if every touch point were seen as another opportunity to create or enhance positively memorable experiences. How would that change the culture of your organization? How would that lend credibility toward growing your organization? Think of the ripple effect. Live it and breathe it every day for optimum results!

The Experience Factor

The ‘Experience Journey’, which I also refer to as an ‘Emotion Circle’ is a simple way to gauge and improve any type of relationship. Keep in mind, all relationships have an experience factor. All interactions have an experience factor. Every touchpoint also has an experience factor. Even digital touchpoints have an experience factor. And especially, culture within an organization has an experience factor. Take some time to let that all set in.

Tomorrow we will take a deep dive into the ‘Experience Journey’. I believe you’ll see how it all ties together — customer experience, employee experience, culture — and how this simple graphic will be a priceless point of reference for organizations of any size.

Have a great day. Make it happen. Make it count!

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Paul Segreto

Franchises & Restaurants | Management & Development Consulting | Entrepreneurship Coaching | Visionary Thought Leader | CEO & Founder