Jozef Opdeweegh: The Strength of Corporate Culture

What is the strength of corporate culture?

I’m a true believer in corporate culture. I’m a true believer in corporate culture as an instrument to guide a company through transformation and change. Not everybody may be a believer, but I very much am. I believe that the more daunting the task is, the larger the degree of changes a company has to go through, and the more important corporate culture becomes.

I’ve been CEO of a number of different businesses, some of those startups, where it’s easy to implement your own corporate culture, and some of those inherited businesses of size, where it’s a lot more difficult to impact corporate culture.

Your first couple of days as CEO, regardless of the scenario, should be spent on determining the core behaviors you believe in and establishing the core behaviors everybody can embrace. If you talk about fairness nobody’s going to say, “Hey, I’m opposed to fairness.” If you say inclusiveness, nobody’s going to say that he or she is opposed to inclusiveness. So, there should be sort of universal, almost humanistic principles guiding the way a company is managed.

The strength of corporate culture and core behaviors are the players guiding this organization through its next phase – whether it’s an up-phase or a down-phase. Whenever somebody doesn’t adhere to that corporate culture you don’t have to necessarily address that individual directly, but you can point to the fact that the person is not adhering to the corporate culture that he or she had subscribed to in those first couple of days when you walked in.

That’s the strength of corporate culture: it is a very subtle way of gradually driving behavior. Does it work for everybody? No. Are there people who are ultimately still going to continue to display behaviors that are unacceptable? Absolutely. Should those people be part of your organization in the long run? No, they shouldn’t be.