Culture is a word that’s often thrown around but rarely taken seriously. Just as core values are often thought of as words on a website that rarely come into play, company culture is sometimes given the same treatment.
But let me tell you, culture is a word and a practice that can be inspiring and moving. For instance, it can cause entire teams to kick into overdrive in the midst of a global pandemic that threatens their health and financial well-being. I’ve seen it up close: Company culture can create serious positive action if you take the time to develop and nurture it before it’s too late.
That’s what we did at Medix in 2014, and that major shift helped us not only survive, but thrive, while others were going out of business early on during the onset of COVID.
Culture fuels strategy
As 2023 unfolds, workplace culture has never been more important. The seismic changes brought on by the pandemic, particularly with many companies going to remote work or a hybrid of remote and in-office, necessitated a new and flexible approach by company leaders.Employees’ feelings about where and how they worked became a higher priority, especially as many workers joined the Great Resignation.
With financial turbulence forecasted by many economic experts this year, a strong culture can be a foundation that weathers the storm, as it has for us at Medix.
It doesn’t matter if your company operates in an office, remotely, in the same time zone, or on different continents. Everybody is on the same page when you promote a culture of positivity and teamwork. A strong company culture creates a resounding desire to work together toward an achievable goal.
Back in 2014, we adjusted our mission and vision and started heavily emphasizing our culture. In addition to celebrating individual wins, we began to focus on wins as an organization. We were learning that increasing our top line was much more achievable if we worked together and if we had something more to strive for than simple metrics. We wanted to authentically define our culture.
And since then, we have learned the truth behind that oft-repeated quote: “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.”
This is something I have come to more fully appreciate due to COVID: That strategy can only take a company so far. While strategy is necessary to have, it can only be a reality when your teammates are engaged. At Medix, it was our culture that got us through the pandemic. It was our desire to see one another succeed and to become better in the process –– not only our strategies or our planning.
Expect the unexpected
Any business leader will tell you that forecasts and projections are crucial to a company’s success. So like any other business, we had our projections in line for 2020. But there wasn’t a single business that could have been prepared for what was to come.
Steady growth was what we aimed for every year. That meant we would have the ability to consistently help others, both inside the company and out. Growth meant being able to share our successes with others in ways we wouldn’t be able to do without that growth.
The first quarter of 2020 opened with optimism. We had high hopes for an incredible year. The economy was booming, we were filling jobs and positively impacting lives, and our sights were set on incredible results.
Then, in what seemed like an instant, the whole world changed. Our kickoff meeting was canceled. The annual incentive trip was called off. Offices were forced to close, and suddenly our team was turning their homes into offices. Everybody was affected.
Companies across the nation were suffering. It was as if a tsunami had swept through the entire nation, and only those homes with the strongest foundations were still standing. Everyone had to rethink the way they do business to survive.
Luckily, our pillars kept us solidified, but debris was floating in the water all around us. The aftermath of what had taken place made it clear that we were all still in danger – after all, the waters would need to recede, and we could still easily be sucked out to sea if we weren’t actively keeping ourselves grounded.
We reacted accordingly. Internally, we were having survival calls. We lost 40 percent of our business in a single week, and we were scrambling. What were we going to do? None of us really had an idea. COVID was so new and so unpredictable that things were changing every day. We could certainly try to strategize and put our plans into effect, but what good would they do if we couldn’t predict what the world would be like tomorrow?
The rest of the team might not have been aware of it, but I’ll admit: We were scared. We were panicking like everyone else, but we tried not to reveal our fears to the rest of the company. After all, these were the people who depended on us to make a living. They were out there, working hard to spread the Medix mission and to help us grow. We knew we had to figure things out.
Culture shows up when people step up
And this is where my mind was blown. This is where those members of the Medix team did so much more than simply convert their homes into offices. It’s where these amazing individuals spent much more energy and time caring about what would happen to us as a whole. They didn’t complain, looking into the chaotic abyss and waiting to see what would happen next. They reacted. And it was inspiring.
We didn’t have a clock-in and clock-out team. They didn’t simply look at their occupation as a job that they had to drag their feet to every morning and wait to leave in the afternoon. They could have enjoyed their new work-from-home situation, did what their job description entailed during business hours, closed their laptops at five o’clock, and crossed their fingers that Medix would still be around in the morning. But they didn’t.
Instead, this team took initiative. They went out and started doing things well outside what they were required to do. Once we started working remotely, how Medix operated was nowhere close to the traditional business model. Everyone took over, whether they had a leadership role or not. Every member of this team started going out of their way to ensure we had work coming in. Teammates at every level were reaching out to contacts they knew, people in their network, friends, family, and anyone else they could come across to try to keep us from losing revenue at the same rate it seemed every company was losing it.
It was incredible to witness. Here I was at home, spending hours upon hours on the phone with CEOs and business leaders of other companies, trying to get some insight on how to get through this thing. It felt like all eyes were on me, and I needed to come up with a strategy.
Yet it was our culture that was making things happen. Each member of the team took on many new roles, and offices across the country started locking arms and helping each other. With the sparks created by teams in other geographics and camaraderie throughout the entire organization, we were able to turn things around.
Culture saved us. A culture of wanting to help others – to live our core values and to positively impact the lives of others, particularly inside of our organization. And as leaders focus on reaching their goals for 2023, navigate obstacles, and remain growth-oriented, they would be prudent to put as much attention on culture, for it is the foundation of all successful companies, and the primary driver of strategy.