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Business Journal

B2B Organic Growth: Can Companies Change Their Cultures?

by Amy Adkins

Story Highlights

  • Successful B2Bs thoroughly examine their organization's identity
  • Companies should stop trying to be like every other company
  • Leaders have to be committed to following through on a plan of action

This article is the second in a two-part series.

The first article in this series shows why creating a customer-centric culture is essential for business-to-business companies (B2B) to achieve organic growth -- that is, to get more business from existing customers. It also stresses the importance of a strong organizational identity and the three key elements to building one: purpose, brand and culture.

Undoubtedly, culture matters, but can companies really change it? The answer is yes, but with a caveat. Organizations can change their culture as long as they take the right approach.

The road to organizational alignment isn't always easy. It requires dedication and persistence on the part of the company, especially by its leaders. But the effort is essential, as only 29% of B2B customers are engaged, while 60% are indifferent and 11% are actively disengaged. This is not a recipe for organic growth.

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Aligning Purpose, Brand and Culture

Gallup's experience shows that the most successful companies align their purpose, brand and culture when they:

Thoroughly examine the organization's identity. A company can gain a true understanding of its purpose, brand and culture only by conducting in-depth quantitative and qualitative research. Exploring identity is akin to going on an anthropological dig -- the organization has to keep digging to uncover the artifacts that explain its history. This dig can include executive team interviews, employee interviews and focus groups, on-site observations and internal and external document reviews.

The results of the research help the organization answer crucial questions, such as:

  • How clear are our brand and purpose?
  • How consistent are we within the functional elements of our culture?
  • How aligned are we between our aspirational purpose, brand and culture and our actual purpose, brand and culture?
  • Are employees truly committed to helping us achieve our desired identity?

Bring in an objective third party. Identity is not an abstract concept that a company can mold, refine, measure and manage, but rather, the company must view it through an objective lens. Many organizations have inherent biases when examining their own identity. In many cases, organizations lack the data or knowledge needed to evaluate their culture -- or a barrier, such as historical precedence or leadership influence, prevents them from honestly examining their state of affairs. If a company wants to implement real change, it has to work with an outside firm to ask questions and conduct research.

Stop trying to be like every other company. Every organization should aspire to have a unique identity. Unfortunately, many companies try to cobble an identity together using bits and pieces of what works at other businesses. This Frankenstein approach rarely results in long-term, sustainable success. Instead, Gallup has found that organizations are most successful when they focus on evaluating, understanding and strengthening their distinct purpose, brand and culture.

Take and sustain action. The results from the research and inquiry should provide the organization with a concrete plan of action. Leaders have to be committed to following through on the plan, and they have to get their managers on board. Buy-in is vital to any change initiative. Employees have to believe in the words their leaders and managers are saying, and they need to see them living the desired behaviors. Companies must communicate consistently about their purpose, brand and culture to ensure that their systems and processes -- that is, performance management and human capital -- reflect and reinforce these elements.

Gallup


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