Committing to building a strong workplace culture is a long-term investment. The time, energy and money invested in building a strong culture can take years to return. But when the returns do arrive, they can be absolutely worth the wait.
In 2006, the third year of The Physio Co’s life, we experienced a gut-wrenching NDE (Near Death Experience). We lost a big client and overnight almost half of our revenue evaporated. It was one of the most horrifying and defining moments of my early career.
At that point, I had a choice, I could either: (1) Blame the client, run away and distract myself with finding new business; or (2) take responsibility, learn from the failure and commit to regaining the trust of that client, which would reinforce the humble, values-based culture that we were building.
I chose option (2). The Physio Co’s core values guided me to ‘communicate in clear, concise and honest ways’. So, when the dust settled on the situation, I made a time to speak to the COO of the lost client. I humbly asked what it would take to regain their trust and how we could become a trusted long-term partner as their business grew. I listened closely and committed to, one day, regaining their business.
It took more than a few years, but, in 2011, we did pick up that client site again. We had regained their trust enough to be re-engaged as a supplier. We grabbed that opportunity and have worked closely ever since. Today, in 2012, The Physio Co continues to visit that particular client site and we now service nine of their aged care homes.
This year The Physio Co team will provide more than 100,000 physiotherapy visits to elderly residents. Close to 15,000 of those visits will be with this formerly lost client. That’s a 300% increase in sales from said client! These are the long-term returns than can result from building a strong culture.
A business with a strong workplace culture usually has an extraordinary focus on supporting its team. This is true, but supporting staff is just one part of building culture. A strong culture applies to everything a business does. Of course it’s how you treat staff, but it’s also how you treat your clients, suppliers, neighbours and everyone else in your extended community.
By committing to creating a strong workplace culture you are committing to building long-term relationships with people you trust. You are investing for the future. A strong culture is based upon doing the right thing, always.
Do you have a story of how creating a strong culture and committing to long-term relationships has paid off months or years later? If so, please let me know in the comments below. I’d love to hear from you.
Tristan White is a husband to Kimberley and a dad to little Alexandra. He’s a qualified physiotherapist, ironman triathlete, blogger and CEO of The Physio Co – Australia’s eighth Best Place to Work. His passion is to build a strong family and workplace culture and share what he learns with the world. Tristan’s Culture is Everything blog was ranked by SmartCompany as one of Australia’s 25 Best Business Blogs in 2011.