How can a company achieve greatness and maintain it for an extended period of time?  Factors such as timely innovation, superior foresight, or perfect market timing go a long way, but without the right culture, the success will be short lived.  Bill Taylor of the Harvard Business Review wrote a great article on this subject.  He quotes Vince Lombardi, discussing the importance of culture to a successful organization:

“’The love I’m speaking of is loyalty, which is the greatest of loves’, Lombardi told his audiences.  ‘Teamwork, the love that one man has for another and that he respects the dignity of another…I am not speaking of detraction. You show me a man who belittles another and I will show you a man who is not a leader…Heart power is the strength of your company. Heart power is the strength of the Green Bay Packers. Heart power is the strength of America and hate power is the weakness of the world.’”

How many businesses in America today run on “heart power?”  Bill Taylor tells the story of a kidney dialysis company called DaVita (http://www.davita.com/) that was on the verge of bankruptcy in 1999.  Since then, CEO Kent Thiry has completely turned the company around—going from a market capitalization of $200 million in 1999 to more than $6 billion at the time of Taylor’s article.  Thiry was able to direct this remarkable turnaround from the inside out—by completely transforming the company culture.  As Taylor put it: “If the people of DaVita could figure out how to treat patients right, and how to treat each other right, then the business would right itself. And that’s precisely what happened.”

How does this apply to you?  Take a moment and think about your company culture.  What drives your employees to get out of bed and come to work each day?  Is it their love for their job, their colleagues and their boss?  Or are they motivated only by that next paycheck?  For most of us, the truth is probably closer to the latter than the former.  So how to begin transforming your company’s culture?  You can start by making “doing the right thing” a priority for yourself and for your employees.  As DaVita learned, if you and your employees can learn to treat each other right, and to treat your customers right, the business will take care of itself.

Does your company culture reflect the “heart power” discussed above? Leave a comment and share your thoughts below.