Running NAHREP has taught me a great deal about leadership and company culture. I get to interface with a lot of companies and business owners, and I occasionally get to see under the hood. By running NAHREP I’ve also learned that in an organization with over 30,000 members and volunteers, inspiration is the lifeblood.

Company culture is something all business owners like to talk about. They know it is important and most think they have great company culture. They say things like “our company culture is our strongest asset”, but few even know what it means. Company culture is the emotional relationship a company has with its employees or constituents. Essentially, what do they “feel” when they think about the company where they work? If they feel excited or inspired, then they work at a place that has great culture. If they feel comfortable or satisfied, then they work at a place with average company culture, and if they have negative feelings – then of course they work at a place with poor company culture. It has very little to do with money or status – it is purely emotional.

Today, perhaps more than ever, people need to be fulfilled in their job or career. They want to believe they are part of something bigger than themselves and that the organization where they work is a force for good. Companies with great culture have a couple of things in common; they have a clearly defined vision and they have a team who believes in that vision and most importantly, understands their role in accomplishing the vision. Sounds simple, but it is actually very difficult. The indispensible component is leadership. Companies with great culture also have leaders who can express the company vision in an honest and authentic way. There are thousands of companies with beautiful mission statements that nobody believes. A company’s vision can be as grand as ‘changing the world’ or as small as ‘bringing a little bit of happiness to its customers’ – what matters is that the team believes in it and is inspired to be part of it. The bottom line is that most companies do not spend enough time working on company culture. It is especially critical during a recession or downturn when a company’s culture may mean the difference between life and death.