top of page


Every business owner wants to have a great exit, but only 1 in 10 succeed. Building a great culture in your business is the key to making it exit ready, exit attractive and positioned for a great exit. This Inc. article on the 7 things to build a fantastic culture says we can't create culture directly, but we can create an environment where the desired culture emerges. I like all of the ideas in the article and I want to add a few points from my work over the last 14 years in using an agile approach to drive transformational change.

To many of the small-medium business owners I know, the idea of changing culture sounds like voodoo magic, something vague and nebulous, and when I speak of it their eyes glaze over. Yet when I'm brought into companies to drive transformational growth, I've found the key to success is people, because building a great culture is how we empower people to deliver great results. Also, the most effective way to drive change is to keep it simple and focused.

The first step in this cultural journey is re-framing culture as a simple concept, culture is simply the pattern of people's behaviours in the business. Ultimately, your culture is defined by the behaviours you tolerate. So if you want to change the culture, then you need to change the boundaries of acceptable behaviours. John Shook outlined this in his MIT article on changing corporate culture, where he outlines that changing behaviour changes thinking, and collectively the pattern of behaviours/thinking defines the culture. When I first saw this, I loved it because it was completely aligned with my own experiences driving change. My experience was this behaviour to thinking and thinking to behaviour pattern creates an iterative circle of cultural growth as shown in his diagram. As a leader, I can't control people's thinking, but I can control behaviours. So this gave me a lot more confidence in accelerating cultural change. The key points he identified were:

  • Start by changing what people do rather than how they think.

  • ”It’s easier to act your way to a new way of thinking than to think your way to a new way of acting.”

  • Give employees the means by which they can successfully do their jobs.

  • Recognize that the way that problems are treated reflects your corporate culture

The two best tools I've found to direct the right types of behaviour are; a higher purpose and vision for the business that excites people; and core values that are used every day, at every level by every person. It is the core values that define acceptable behaviour and everyone must live them as they must be non-negotiable.

Building from this behavioural foundation I found the 7 things you can do to grow a fantastic culture were great ways to create an environment where agile cultural change can thrive. Over time, a great culture empowers people to innovate, improve, perform, lead and produce great results. Empowered people driving growth on their own initiative makes the company much less dependent on ownership, which attracts strategic buyers and a premium price. I expect that in today's great resignation your ability to use your great culture to attract and retain the best talent will be an even bigger attraction for buyers. In conclusion, building a great culture is a great investment to set yourself up for a great exit.

I'd like to hear your thoughts, please share this and you can download the article from Inc. through this link -

ARTICLE - 7 Things You Can Do to Build a Fantastic Company Culture - INC
Download PDF • 245KB

ARTICLE - How to Change a Culture - Lessons from NUMMI - MITSLOAN
Download PDF • 575KB

17 views0 comments


bottom of page