Your company’s most important asset….
Google “your company’s most important asset” and you will find a preponderance of articles, posts, and books with answers such as:
- Your employees (who hasn’t read that in the CEO’s letter to the shareholders?)
- Your intellectual capital (alternatively referred to as your intellectual property)
- Your reputation (within the community of whom? Employees? Investors? Consumers? All three?)
- Your brands, your brand promise(s), your brand messaging… (to some “it’s all about the brand”)
- Something termed “Tribal Knowledge” (this one sounds way too trendy…I’m thinking someone got carried away with the cave writings of Seth Godin)
It is very hard to argue with any of these (I could probably take the one who preaches on “tribal knowledge” to the mat). But while employees are key, they can be replaced, and often times upgraded to meet a fast moving marketplace. Intellectual capital or intellectual property is a rapidly depreciating asset at best. Your reputation, when taken across multiple stakeholder groups, is such a big one to tackle that it seems akin to solving world hunger by “feeding everyone”.
In my humble opinion, it is your organizational culture that is your most valuable, irreplaceable asset. It is what tempers the beast of change, feeds the marketplace what your customers are demanding (even when they don’t realize that they are), and what makes the whole “branding thing” possible. I suspect that your organizational culture is also important across all your tribe, whoever they are…
The care and feeding of your company culture is the most important role an executive leader plays. A culture doesn’t begin or end with one person, but if that individual is the Chief Executive Officer, she or he can most assuredly define, declare, displace or derail it. It takes a compelling effort, sustained and reinforced at all levels of the organization, to raise the cultural values across diverse social, generational, and geographic audiences. It also takes time to build…less time to destroy, but a long time to become a viable corporate life force.
A strong, positive culture demands the best of those who are tasked with putting values into action, and to create a favorable environment in which they can take root and grow. Values are not just words to those who truly grasp the potential they hold for building a common cause among all associates. It is far easier to be cynical these days than it ever has been in the history of commerce. It is hard enough to gain buy-in to traditional beliefs, even as simple as, “do unto others…”
Your company culture has no chance to exist without clearly demonstrated beliefs, put in practice, and hiding in plain sight at every opportunity. Failing to reinforce the values, letting moments of truth slip by with no recognition of an associate caught in the act of doing something positive, will create an unnecessarily perilous future for the culture you wish to instill. Communicating, demonstrating, reinforcing, articulating, recognizing, celebrating, commiserating…these are all terribly important to nurturing the culture of your firm.
What is the most important asset of your company? I would say it is the one thing that your company cannot exist without, and cannot be replaced if it’s lost, damaged or stolen. When you look around your company, whether you have fifteen or fifteen thousand associates, consider what is being done to create and support a culture that values each individual in accordance with a consistently defined purpose, vision and set of principles. If you find a more valuable asset than that, I would love to hear about it.