When I mention the phrase “company culture”, many business owners immediately picture some tenured professor rambling on in an ivory tower, far away from the “real world” of business. And while academia has certainly created its fair share of theories that look great on paper but don’t work in real life, company culture isn’t one of them. I can assure you that a strong company culture is extremely valuable to a business—and I’ve got plenty of clients who will testify the same.

Have you visited an Apple Store recently?  If so, you know exactly what a strong company culture looks like.  Apple does a great job of incorporating their employees into their culture—and the vast majority of employees truly buy in.  Ask a customer associate to tell you about their latest laptop, for instance, and note the passion and sincerity with which he describes the product.  No amount of sales training can produce this type of authenticity—it cannot be faked.  Apple employees from the ground up buy in to Apple’s culture, and Apple’s continuing success speaks for itself.

A strong company culture is about more than sales. In fact, the productivity of your work force is greatly impacted by the power of your culture.  Here’s an analogy for you: have you ever seen a professional sports team that just doesn’t care, that has totally quit on their coach?  They are still out there playing (after all they want to get paid!), but they aren’t doing the little things right, and they are not pulling together.  Contrast that with a team that buys into the program their coach has created.  They hustle, they dive on every loose ball, they finish every play, and they sink or swim as a team.  The difference?  The first team doesn’t buy into their organizational culture, and the second team does.

So where do you begin?  The first step is to define your culture.  What do you stand for?  What are your company values?  What are you passionate about?  Then you need to introduce your culture to your employees—and you need them to buy in.  This is easier said than done.  It will take repetition, training, positive reinforcement, and most importantly, it takes you practicing what you preach.  You are the boss—you set the tone.  If you are not living up to the standards and the values you have identified, nobody else will.

The strength of your company culture is more important than the quality of your products.  It is more important than your profit margin.  It is more important than any marketing campaign.  If you get your culture right, everything else will follow.  A company with a strong culture will produce quality products, will enjoy a healthy profit margin, and will generate word-of-mouth advertising.