Anchoring Business Culture

Culture is crafted to make your business who it uniquely needs to be to succeed and is never about self-interest, control or dollars.


Active Knowledge Question:

What moulds the culture that exists within your business?


Can You Draw?

Gather a set of colour pencils and two sheets of A3 paper (29.7 x 42cm or 11.69 x 16.53 inches) and find a clean desk on which to work. Clear your headspace and create a picture in your mind of ‘who’ your business needs to be, to be an amazing success in the market they are in. What traits should it possess and what skills does it need? Make the picture as detailed and as clear as you can. Use colour and size to articulate key features. Rotate the image 360 degrees in your mind seeing all the detail and fill in any missing aspects. I always create these pictures in the image of a person as I find it easy to visualise a successful person and what they may look like.

Now transfer that image onto the first sheet of A3 paper, do the best you can and if your artistic skills can’t quite capture the detail then write a few phrases of description down around the image you are transferring from mind to paper. Finish it off and sit back and reflect upon what you have drawn.

You’ve sketched an image of whom your business needs to become, to compete effectively in its chosen market. You have described many of the traits that will make up the culture that you need to craft in your business.

What about the second sheet of paper? Well, that is far simpler. Draw a picture of whom your business is today reflecting all its strengths, weaknesses and struggles. When completed place the two pictures up on a wall beside each other and you will see the gap between who you are today and who need to become.

Yes, this one of those exercises that you are asked to undertake during a strategy session or like, and many shudder and resist the exercise. But a few always throw themselves into it with a passion and as each person in the room holds up and speaks into their diagram a very telling image of how your team sees your business emerges. And also, how unified they are on where the business needs to track to in the future as well.

You should always place these types of images up on the wall and stand back and reflect on each image. We tend to reveal a lot more of our thinking when we place pen to paper than what we do when we sit back in our chairs around a table and talk.

This simple exercise is a door opener to the conversation of whom your business needs to become to underpin its competitiveness and success. It allows aspects of culture to be clearly defined and creates a mental image of what culture will look like, which makes it tangible and is an image you can keep coming back to. 


Two Sides To The Coin

When you begin to discuss culture, there are always two sides to the coin.

The first side is the traits that need to exist to allow your business to lift its potential to the forefront. The second side is the skill sets that it needs to be proficient in to deliver the customer value it will compete around. The first is common to all businesses, and the second side will be unique to your business.

The first side is the most important as these traits enable your business to be a stellar success. They underpin the level to which you will be able to take the skill sets that are required in your business: they set the ceiling.

Here’s my list of these side one traits continuing with my imagery of a person:

  • Self-confident but not arrogant
  • Strong but relaxed
  • Vitality
  • Succinct in purpose
  • Clear in beliefs
  • Renewing and uplifting in language
  • Grateful
  • Giving
  • Humble
  • Playful
  • Accepting
  • Faithful to the purpose of the business.

These traits enable people to thrive, remembering the core strength of a business lies in the combined talent and effort that you are able to muster each and every day.

The second side of the coin must reflect those skills, attributes, talents that are necessary for you to be able to create and deliver more customer value than anyone else in your chosen market. This is not a static value but one which hopefully compounds every day.

Side one of the coin is anchored in purpose, motive, leadership and relationships. It is fuelled by vision and rewards but can be restrained through any barriers you allow to arise.

Side two of the coin is anchored in your business’s competitive posture being how it has chosen to compete in its marketplace. This is an expression of your business strategy arising out of customer focus and capability.


The Engine

There exists in your business whether you recognise it or not a competitive engine that sets the ceiling and floor to the competitiveness and success of your business. It determines how high you can fly and how far you can fall. It’s operating 24/7/365 with or without your guidance.

It consists of 11 elements, all of which are interdependent and of which culture is one element. The character and workings of the other ten elements will craft the culture that exists within your business.

Mould, craft and anchor the culture in your business by focusing on the other elements.

Here is a list of the elements and what I express as being their correct/right character:


  • Leadership: is from the centre. It rests in character, which regulates motive. Humility and gratitude are foundation stones of worthy leadership. They allow the greatest potential to be realised.
  • Purpose: forms the cornerstone of your business’s future. It is founded in customer need and provides an enduring window for growth and opportunities. The right cornerstone allows your business to achieve its potential.
  • Motive: The core strength of any business is the combined talent and effort of all those who work with it, and that strength rests in motive. The right motive magnifies and compounds that strength, whereas the wrong motive disperses and neutralises it. Businesses exist to compete not to profiteer.
  • Relationships: Relationships are founded in trust and engagement. Everyone working within and with your business must be seen as the most important source of competitiveness and not a cost centre. Trust must be established, and only then can true engagement commence.
  • Vision: is best seen as the ‘quest’ for your business. It is your call for others to join you on this journey. It should be exciting, enticing and challenging.
  • Culture: is who your business is if it were a person. It is crafted to support your purpose as a business and to enable it to compete to its greatest capability.


  • Customer focus: requires placing the customer and their needs at the centre of your business and everything else then orientates to this view. Your entire business exists to meet their needs today and into the future.
  • Capability: will influence how you compete but ultimately must be tailored, crafted and built to enable your business to outcompete all others in your chosen market.
  • Strategy: is the outcome of a business’s customer focus and the capabilities it has built to deliver more customer value than anyone else in its chosen marketplace.


  • Rewards: represent the fuel of any business, and it feeds the needs of its people. Needs extend well beyond financial benefits and includes belonging, contribution, achievement, growth and self-worth, to name a few.
  • Barriers: include pride, self-interest, politics, paradigms, managerial frames and bureaucracy, all of which can prevent a business from becoming all that it can be. They reflect barriers to growth and success and must be removed if your business is ever to achieve its potential.

All of these elements impact each other, and they must all come into alignment and their correct character to optimise the competitive fitness of a business. 

The culture in your business is not some abstract concept founded in generic value statements or statements of political correctness. It is anchored firmly in whom your business needs to be to succeed in delivering on the purpose for which it exists. It is rock solid, clear and lived, but it is always evolving and compounding.


An entirely new level of performance.

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All the best in the success of your business,

Richard Shrapnel