Take a look at the modern business world around you and you’ll find that:

-Customers and clients are becoming increasingly demanding
– Competitors increasingly innovative
– Talented people are increasingly making values-led decisions about which company to work for.

The need to differentiate has become more important than ever before.

To a great extent, products, services, models, processes and systems can be replicated.  What can’t be replicated is the culture that drives a business and how that translates to the way the people in the business add value, which is why culture is increasingly becoming the most powerful differentiator a business has available to it.

But what is culture?

The word culture originates from the Latin word ‘cultura’, meaning “to cultivate” or “to grow” and is generally used to define patterns of human behaviour as well as the structures that give that behaviour significance.

Culture is the shared values and behaviours of a group of people and in a business context, it’s how the shared values of the people in the business, so in other words, what’s important to them, translates to how they behave in the business.

So, whilst a company’s culture is not tangible, it is highly evident in what the people in the business do and say.

It’s in their working environment, their working processes and the way they deal with each other and their clients and customers.

It’s in how they discuss challenges, how they deal with differences of view, how they make decisions and how they respond to and navigate change.

It’s in how they deal with responsibility and accountability and how they plan for and measure success.

And it’s in how they support each other and manage pressure and stress.

So, why is culture important?

We all know that brand differentiation helps attract clients and customers.  Well, a company culture is its brand and when you consider that ultimately, clients and customers are served by people, company culture plays a big part in attracting and retaining the right people for your brand.

Every business has a culture.  However, whether it’s by design or not is another matter and that’s where the differentiation bit comes in.

How can you differentiate through culture?

To effectively differentiate through culture, a company needs one that is distinctive – one that stands out and that starts with defining the values that will drive it.

It’s wise to follow the principles of good marketing here:  Assuming that the vision is clear (and if it isn’t, that’s the place to start!), begin by asking what the required values (ethos) and behaviours (culture) are in order to inspire the motivation, create the momentum and ultimately produce the desired results.

Once these have been articulated and documented, the next step is to actively cultivate them by making culture both a strategic a daily focus.

When you have a clearly defined culture (both on paper and in reality), your people will thrive, and so will your business.

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