Insights to Sustaining Company Culture

This week I had the opportunity to visit with Dave Ramsey in Nashville, the headquarters of his company, The Lampo Group. Dave is the radio celebrity who encourages people of all walks of life to be debt free and markets the program, Financial Peace University.

I was there with about 20 fellow members of the Helzberg Entrepreneurial Mentoring Program. He shared some insights which I thought were worth passing along. (Special thanks to Laura Laiben, owner of the Culinary Center, who captured these notes!)

Much of the conversation centered on the importance of creating and sustaining company values. As background, Dave is a strong Christian who incorporates God’s teachings into his product, business beliefs and culture.

Integrity and responsibility to others is central to his culture.

To reinforce that culture, he meets with all new hires after their 90 day probation, in a small group, to share stories about the company, give them a chance to ask questions and challenge them to become “producers” of the culture going forward. Ramsey calls this meeting “Wrap with Dave” because he serves Chick-fil-A chicken wraps. During the meeting, he asks them to reflect on something someone else did for them in the last 90 days that resonated with them, and asks them to “produce” that event for others in the future; to assume it would have the same type of impact on others and to keep it alive as a part of the culture going forward. He sees employees as responsible for culture and believes it needs to be built from the ground up.

Interestingly, as I have interviewed successful leaders over the years, I have found that great leaders get personally involved in the on-boarding of new employees in order to imprint cultural values. The way it is done varies by company and culture. In a moving company, the newly hired movers have to run the local stadium stairs with the CEO. He teaches them he will not ask them for something he can’t do but also assesses their physical stamina—important to the job. They bond as a team.

Ramsey focuses on open conversations as the means to keep everyone on the same page, clear the air and establish expectations. Not only does he do the “Wrap with Dave”, he has a weekly managers meeting in which they cover a range of issues, including culture, and tell it how it is.

Another key value is trust.

Ramsey declared that the organization can only move at the speed of trust. You must be able to trust someone’s business experience and personal values to be able to delegate responsibilities to them. If you can’t delegate, you don’t effectively use the entire bandwidth of the organization. If people violate trust by lying  they are gone—immediately.

Believing in the cause is also integral to employment at Lampo. As Ramsey put it, when it is no longer a crusade, if the purpose of the organization doesn’t align with personal passion, it is time for you to leave and connect with something else.

Ask yourself these important questions:

  1. What do I do, as leader of the organization, to set and maintain our company values?
  2. What are the top three values of the organization, what do they look like in our company, and what happens if they are violated?  

If you are comfortable, please share your responses below!

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