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People, companies grow best in a sweet-smelling culture

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Jack Daly, sales coach and trainer, frequently asks his audiences, “What does your company culture smell like? Does it smell sweet, or does it stink?”

When I first heard these questions, they seemed rather strange. In addition, what does Daly's message about creating unique and sustainable sales techniques and opportunities have to do with a company's culture?

The reality is that it has everything to do with it. The how, what, where, when, why, how much and by whom of sales start with the culture and all the human senses that are driven by the culture. What does it look like, sound like, feel like, and – to Daly's point – smell like?

When a company culture stinks, it negatively affects the perception of how customers, employees, vendors and the community perceive the company. Because a person's perception is his or her reality, it also means that the opposite is true – those same groups of people will be inspired to do business with, or be connected to, a company whose culture is fragrant (healthy).

If we want people to have the best perceptions about our company, we need to make sure the culture is on rock-solid ground and smells as refreshing as a spring rain.

Think about the message customers receive when they walk into a business 11 minutes before the published closing time and are greeted by a less than genuinely interested representative of the company.

And, what about the enthusiastic employment candidate who drives into the parking lot of a business for an interview, and sees that the landscape is overgrown, the dumpster is overflowing and the signage is confusing or too small to read?

On the other hand, when a business' culture smells sweet, everyone can feel the “hug” – the property is clean and well-maintained, and visitors are greeted with a genuine welcome regardless of the time or circumstance:

“Hello Mr./Ms. Jones. It's nice to see you. How are you today, and how can we make your day more special?”

Meanwhile, what's happening in the business?

The fragrant culture supports, values and rewards employees who model good attitudes, behaviors and performance – and takes action to remove individuals who have poor attitudes, behaviors and performance.

When the leadership and management of a company take a true interest in their employees, the effects become contagious.

Attitudes and behaviors improve. People work better together. The environment is upbeat.

And, the best customers and new team members are more easily attracted to the company because they want to be part of the company's sweet success.

If you see light bulbs not being replaced when they've burned out, pieces of paper on the floor that people continue to step over or around, untidy lunchrooms, conference rooms and bathrooms and clutter and piles of “stuff” that just seem to keep growing and growing, take action now.

These can be signs that your culture may be going down a stinky path, and your employees are letting you know they don't feel valued.

If they feel you don't care about them, they will disengage. And you'll be faced with customers who sense your employees' disengagement when they're trying to do business with you.

My former company was well-known for the quality of its interior designs and furnishings for businesses.

When it came to the logic behind “built-in obsolescence,” we were clueless. As a result, most of our clients would reward us with additional projects one, two or 10 years after the initial work had concluded.

When visiting clients after a project, it always was interesting how some companies were maintaining the property, equipment and furnishings as if it were the day after we left the jobsite. As for the others, let's hope those companies did not tell anyone we had worked with them.

Seeing the blatant destruction of property was painful. I was looking at it from several perspectives: designer, business and commercial building owner, friend and consumer.

Asking the clients about what happened, they would reply with answers like, “People don't care.” “No one takes care of things that aren't theirs.” “I wish we wouldn't have spent the money.” “I wonder what their homes look like.”

Why did they spend the money? Their staff's attitudes and behavior toward each other and their customers are so poor.

Fix those things first. Some clients thought a fresh look or new larger quarters would improve morale.

The first time I heard Jack Daly's questions, the problem in our clients' business became crystal clear.

If good attitudes, behaviors and performance are not being rewarded, and poor attitudes, behaviors and performance are not being addressed, what do you think the customer will see as a result?

Having a fragrant culture is not just a cliché such as, “garbage in, garbage out” or “you are what you eat.”

It is a living and breathing element of the foundation of every business, and it takes time, patience and persistence to grow and nurture it, because people are involved.

Companies don't grow unless their people grow. People grow best in a fragrant culture.

If you are a leader in your organization, make the choice to plant the seeds that grow a fragrant culture. Take action now, before employees and customers take off.

Bonnie Sussman-Versace – business leader, entrepreneur and principal of Focused LLC in Wyomissing – is dedicated to developing leaders, enhancing cultures and improving performance for business growth and prosperity. She can be reached at bversace@focusedllc.net or 610-301-2194.

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