Culture Eats Strategy For Breakfast

Culture Eats Strategy For Breakfast

Building a great company culture is a significant Strategic Advantage. Competitors can steal your ideas, technology and copy systems or the way you do business but they cannot steal your culture. Further if you have culture that your people love then your competitors cannot steal your people either.

I am often asked “How do we build a culture?’. There is no easy answer except to say it is a conscious decision, it is a process that is continually worked on, it is planned, it involves heavily the desires & input of those in your team. Leaders plan for and enable the culture by making it a priority and something they protect and actively encourage and grow. Your people are the culture so they have to buy in and be part of it.

I am lucky enough to work with clients who are iconic NZ brands, clients who are in the top 10 places to work in the country (year in year out) and many who have workplaces full of committed, highly engaged people.

What do they all have in common? Culture is a big part of their Strategy, they commit time and resources to it and they live and breathe it. They have fun, they work hard and they have very high levels of accountability. Their team helps deal with those who don’t fit or don’t perform.

Culture brings a common language and set of beliefs (values and purpose) to a group of people.

Click on this photo to link & hear John Spence talk about the “Elements of a Winning Culture”.

Culture absolutely eats strategy for breakfast. It is a strategy!

Leadership Lessons: Dr John Penno, CEO, Synlait Milk

Last week I hosted a peer group breakfast for 26 CEO’s. Every two months a group of CEO’s get together, away from their Board of Directors or staff and learn from others about the Leadership journey.

Dr John Penno, CEO of Synlait Milk gave his time to address the group with some of his key learnings over the 10 years. In this time he (and a talented team) has grown Synlait Milk to a large niche quality powder milk company exporting around the globe. I have known John most of my life having attended the same High School and played in the 1st XV rugby team together. I had asked him to share some of his insights into running a growing business. His key points on leadership;

  • Know your stuff and be confident in what you do.
  • People need to know where they are going. They expect it and your role is to create and share the vision.
  • A culture of learning will help you with change and change is constant in a growing, thriving business.
  • Deeply understand your market.
  • Deeply understand the mind of the customer so as to extract the most value from your market.
  • Remain very connected to your market.
  • The power and influence of social media is huge. Understand it and be part of it.
  • Get the detail right with good systems and processes.
  • Invest in your people.
  • Employ and lead people who are good at the things you can’t be good at.
  • Have good Governance in place.
  • The biggest issue is keeping up with growth (and change).
  • Make mistakes and then allow the people who made them to learn and grow from them.

One of the things that really stood out to all those listening was the depth of understanding John had of his key markets and the people who use Synlait Products. He was able to very quickly articulate what end users want, need, expect and what must happen to ensure it successfully gets to market.

I learnt a lot and the follow up questions and discussions were extremely valuable as others interacted and shared their experiences.

It is amazing where a farm boy from Waimate can end up!

CEO of Synlait Milk, Dr John Penno shares his leadership journey with other Canterbury CEO’s.
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