Costco knows that “culture is not the most important thing… it’s the only thing.” -Co-Founder & retired CEO Jim Sinegal
In an interview with Brendan Byrnes of the Motley Fool, Sinegal describes eloquently, why culture eats strategy for lunch:
It [culture] is the thing that drives the business. That’s what drives the strategy of our business, is our culture. Recognizing what we stand for in the customer’s eyes, and what we mean to all of the stakeholders in our business.
That is the culture of our business, and we would hope that we’ll continue to sustain that. If we do that, if we think in those terms, then I think the strategic planning will come right along with that. We recognize that you’ve got to continue to be better. Every day when you open the doors, it’s like show business. It’s another show.
We have to stay on top of our game because, as I mentioned to you earlier, there are no annuities in this business. It’s not a guarantee that they’re going to shop with you next year if your presentation is ho-hum.
This might be my favorite quote from the interview:
Brendan: One of the things Costco is also known for is their low turnover. Other than financial incentives, what are some non-financial incentives that keep that number low, that your employees really count on?
Jim: We love them.
Listen, these are great people. Many of them have been with us since the early days of our business. They’ve helped bring Costco to where it is today. They’ve developed it. They’ve played a pivotal role in everything that has been established over the last 30 years.
We want to keep them. We want them to stay with it. We want to turn our inventory, but not our people. Part of that is, people are happy with a job for more reasons than money. There’s generally a pride in the organization.
Are you a culture enthusiast but don’t know where to begin? These ideas are a reminder: Don’t complicate it! Take one step to create a better workplace environment today, in your team or organization. Your people have the answers if you ask them: “What could we change (that’s in our control) that would inspire you to do your best” – then stop talking, listen, and above all ACT.