Climbing Out of Covid-19 with Culture

June 15, 2020
Company culture image of co-workers fist bumping at conference table
Image: stock. Adobe

For many of us, this world looks different. Home buyers are more cautious, fewer people are working from the office, and reports like “home cancelations” are trending. But even with the uncertainty of running a business during a pandemic, there is no better time to get your company right than right now.

As the former executive director of a global non-profit working with home builders across the nation I’ve forged a lot of great relationships and peered under the hood of some amazing organizations. The one thing that they all  have in common is, “culture is king.” A bad culture will break you, and a great culture will make you. 

So what is culture? The word comes from the Latin word “cultura” and simply means ‘to care’. So what does a guy like you or I do with this new found wisdom about the word culture, and how does it help our company climb out of Covid-19?

Well, that’s a great question requiring a new perspective. My grandfather was a man of few words but memorable ones. He told me that he would prefer a short pencil over a long memory, and if you walk a mile in another man’s shoes then at least you have his shoes. 

Are we really talking about another man’s shoes? Nope. We're talking about a new perspective, a different point of view, and when it comes to culture who couldn't benefit from a free pair of shoes. So it’s time to loosen those lace string loafers and force your heels deep into a pair of farmer’s tall stock leather boots because it’s dangerous ground we are about to walk upon.  However, if you're ready to reap a harvest of margin from a crop of homes built in 2020, you'll benefit from the 20/20 perspective of a farmer.

A farmer manages dirt into soil so that seeds produce a crop. If a wise farmer took a look at your homebuilding business he would tell you that you manage dirt too. You’d probably reply, “yeah our land guy does an awesome job.” Puzzled, he would look back at you and say, “I’m talking about your employees dummy.” He’d tell you that there are only four conditions of dirt: tight, rocky, thorny, and great. Then he would go on to tell you what each type needs to produce a crop: tight soil needs encouragement, rocky soil needs education and/or assistance, thorny soil needs reminding, and great soil needs rest.

Knowing the four conditions of dirt and what is needed so that they produce a crop load of profitable homes is one thing. But knowing how much dirt a farmer is capable of cultivating is another. Start by asking a simple question: “Would it be possible to spend 30 minutes each week with each of my direct reports?” If the answer is “No” then your organization is too heavy in a given area. But that’s okay, just care for the soil you can. 

Jack Nulty is the founder and president of CultureStrong. His company assesses corporate
culture and provides a pathway for companies to become a business that people want to work
for, sell to, and buy from. Jack is the former executive director of the global non-profit Homes
for Hope
and the former top salesperson for Dallas-Fort Worth market building material distributor BMC.