Why companies should think like farmers.
We all know the expression ‘you reap what you sow’. If companies invested as much time into their culture as farmers do with their land they too will cultivate better results.
The definition of ‘cultivate’ is to grow and prepare crops. ‘Culture’ means to maintain an environment suitable for growth. Since we hear the word ‘organic’ growth all the time I see no reason these seemingly organic words shouldn’t be used as my analogy for how to get better results from your business.
We’ve all played Farm Ville and spent hours, days and weeks planting virtual crops to no end and for no real benefit other than to fritter away valuable waiting time. I say ‘all’ maybe it’s just a minority, but either way I believe we should think about the message we’re planting in our own companies. Think about your business as a fertile land, ripe for growth. If you do then I think you’ll sustain more clients by producing great products and an outstanding work force. And if ‘work force’ is too negative for your culture, call them family. If your company is and arid land, lacking in culture and enthusiasm then it’s no wonder that the work produced will be less than satisfactory. However, if you take the time to sow positive attitudes and adopt a culture that encourages and supports employees to be the best that they can then it’s likely that you’ll get a fruitful yield, to speak in farmer tongue.
Create the Perfect Environment
So what are the ingredients for life? Well plants have water, we have beers on a Friday. Plants need a source of nutrition, we have Pizza Thursdays. Plants have sunshine… we have Google? But beyond the mental stimulus employees need encouragement, a sense of importance and above all, respect. If we fill our companies with these values then those that represent the company will do it out of empowerment and affinity, rather than necessity.
Granted, it all sounds quite straight forward but so many companies aren’t paying attention to their own culture. The ones that do, tend to make headlines. I’ve been listening to several podcasts recently about founders who spend serious time thinking about, and creating, the right environment for their business. A habitat, if you like. All the best companies in the tech bubble dedicate a large amount of time trying to work out their culture, what they stand for, essentially how to position themselves. They understand the value it returns. This is very important. If done correctly it will rub off on everyone head down from the CEO to interns on their fifth coffee round. It should be like a champaign flute; fluid and effortlessly trickle through the departments. It harks back to biblical times with Moses and his 10 commandments; designed to help the Israelites prosper and to create a hierarchy of order and morality to live by.
We’re all guilty of being obsessed by winning awards and looking cool to our competition but the truth is that if you’re sincere about producing generally great work then you just don’t need the false pretence and as Guinness have told us for years ‘good things come to those who wait’. I believe there was a TED talk some while ago about Martin Luther King and why people followed him. It wasn’t necessarily because of his charisma, but actually something much greater, they bought into his vision, his dream for a unified america. He was the vehicle convincing thousands and millions of americans to believe in making his dream a reality. Most importantly, his influence enabled ‘his’ dream to become ‘their’ dream.
A great company ethos should be easy to pick up and almost contagious. So when you next have a cup of tea and a few minutes spare, think about what your agency stands for and how you can improve it from the inside out. Rather than worrying about what those on the outside think, looking in.