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Why Building A Culture Centric Business Is A Smart Financial Move

Written by: Corey Harris & Julie Traxler, Executive Contributor

Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.


On a cold, snowy day in Philadelphia, we were pulled into an impromptu meeting with a C-Level employee at our client’s high end retail headquarters. Things had gone sideways yet again, and that was putting it nicely. We had spent the past couple of weeks building a strategy to launch a new piece of software for the company, and the CEO has thrown a wrench in the gears. Several wrenches, in fact, including a budget cut, new requirements, and for all consultants (including us) to put our work on hold until after the holidays. Why? He saw some numbers he didn’t like, he was not in alignment with his partners, and he decided to flex his muscles to get what he wanted. So we were forced to double back on all efforts, rework the schedule, coordinate with our offshore resources, and come back with a plan that somehow still hit most of the goals for the project. It was an impossible task.

But we were used to it at this point. The CEO was known for his temper, and the churn was consistent within his business. The annoying part for us was that it hadn’t always been this way- and this wasn’t the company that we interviewed with. It was a whole different animal once you got inside.

The initial weeks of work for this client were great because all signs pointed to a positive business culture. They had a flashy office that projected a fun and playful workplace, they provided regular meals to the entire staff, and they had built a respectable and trendy online presence. It seemed like a great client to work for on the surface, but this was all for show. Underneath, it was a toxic work environment. And despite all of the effort and cash they threw at building a positive culture, they couldn’t fix the real problem, which came down from the top.

Building a culture-driven business isn’t hard on paper. You define some core values, appoint someone to focus on the personality of the business, and hire a marketing team to create an online personality complete with the appropriate emojis for all of your posts. But it’s way more than that. A business driven by culture spends time understanding the people part of the business, and that people part in turn creates a personality for the business and adds to what already exists. Your culture is a living, breathing organism.

You can’t force culture on a business. It’s unique, and it’s organic. It has to be grown and nurtured. It’s as natural as your own personality built upon years of experiences. And it doesn’t have to be all good feelings and positive vibes.When we talk culture to our clients, the first image that tends to pop into their heads is driving down the PCH in a popular station wagon wearing a sweater and drinking local coffee. But not everyone is into that. Some people want the extremes while others want stability, and that varies from industry to industry and business to business. The trick is understanding who you are as a business leader, how you fit into your industry, and how you will connect with your target market. That target market includes your ideal employee who is the backbone of your culture.

That’s why core values are so important, but don’t try to fool anyone. If you have strong feelings about respect and obedience, don’t try to pass yourself off as the fun, open-door-policy owner. Make it well known what your company is about, and you will find people who desire that in a business. And because those people used your own culture as one of the reasons for applying for a position in your company, they will likely carry those core values forward into how they work, interact with other employees, and communicate with customers.

Afraid that you’ll alienate your potential target market? It’s very possible, but maybe you are targeting the wrong group of customers for your business. Customers who identify with your culture will seek you out. Your online voice, your customer service goals, and even your logo will represent who you are as a business. In doing so, you will find all the people, employees and customers alike, who will want to be connected with your organization.

So what to do with our client in Philadelphia? We were hired to build processes and software launch strategies, and building a strong culture was not in our statement of work. We could have helped cut through some of the nonsense to find the right team to fit their goals, but their toxic culture probably would have prohibited that. Culture starts at the top, and we had no control over that. It’s all about the people when you build a culture centric business, and that was the last thing on their minds. It should be first on yours.

Connect with Julie Traxler and Corey Harris on their LinkedIn, Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter or visit their website.


Julie Traxler and Corey Harris, Executive Contributors Brainz Magazine

Julie and Corey started their company, SB PACE, due to the 2020 pandemic to assist small businesses. Since then, they have expanded into helping start-ups, companies looking to improve, and small business mergers and acquisitions. They wrote the book on small business disaster preparedness and continued to help small businesses by leveraging their knowledge and experience working for Fortune 500 companies and Big Four consulting firms. Julie and Corey are the experts small business owners turn to when looking for sustainable, long-term success.



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