A Lesson from Home Depot’s Co-Founder, Arthur Blank’s book “Good Company”, expounding on the power of a good corporate culture and ways to create one.
A lot is spoken and deliberated on in intellectual circles about the importance of company culture. However, when it comes to actual implementation of a remarkable work culture most companies fall short. Often positive initiatives are seen as expensive and hence deemed unnecessary. But in his book “Good Company”, Arthur Blank highlights the importance of building and enforcing the right company culture as he states, “Every time you reinforce the culture, you reinforce the fabric of the company”.
Born to an entrepreneur father in New York, Blank learned his business fundamentals from his mother who also became a successful entrepreneur taking over the business after her husband’s untimely demise. In an interview with Inc. Blank revealed his mother’s motto that helped him build his own business empire – “Make decisions for the right reason and live with the consequences.”
Apart from Home Depot, Blank also has stakes in NFL’s Atlanta Falcons, Mercedes Benz Stadium, PGA Tour Superstores and Major League Soccer’s Atlanta United. Here are some highlights from Blank’s book that can help build the right company culture:
Create tension but step away from friction
At Home Depot headquarters, Blank and his partner, Marcus would post press clippings of negative coverage about the company and encourage employees to openly discuss the shortcomings of the company. The idea was to get them to talk fearlessly about the problems so that the same could be addressed and put to rest.
When hiring people, think long-term
Companies that want to grow and thrive, needs to have people who believe in the company. Hiring people to serve short term needs robs a company of its champion employees who can grow into bigger jobs and strengthen the company from within as the company surges ahead.
“Put on the apron”
At Home Depot, the senior management followed a custom – whenever executives of any stature (including Blank himself) would visit any of the Home Depot stores, they were mandatorily needed to wear the orange apron that the store workers usually wore. In the early years of the business, Blank and Marcus used to stand at the entrance of the store wearing the uniform and interact with customers, especially the one who left empty-handed.
Indeed, if the top management of a company, makes an effort to stand together with all its employees and interacts with its customers, the work culture of that company would be remarkable.
Trust your customer
Blank asked the fans of Falcons how he could serve them better. The first answer was “win”, but the second answer was about overpriced food and beverage. So, Blank asked the Mercedes Benz stadium executives to workout ways to cut food and beverage price by 50%. The executives found a way and the prices were slashed, driving sales up by 120%. And the result was happy customers and happier accountants.
Lead with humility
Blank says that as a leader one must truly have the sense of humility by believing that the end-customers who are served by the company and the associates or employees who serve alongside a leader, both at a certain level is more knowledgeable. With this belief, a leader develops the ear for hearing the unbridled truth, which is extremely essential for a company to thrive.
Ask an important question
Finally, Blank says that the answer to one question about your company best reflects the culture of your company. The question is “Is this organization worthy of your life?” – a question that any sensible young professional would ask himself when serving a company. When the answer to that question is in the affirmative, it indicates that the culture of the organization is thriving, and its employees are taking the right decisions confidently while serving the company and the customers simultaneously.