Corporate Culture as Commodity

September 28, 2012 • History Factory

Some businesses are known not just for what they do (their products and services) but also for how they conduct business (their corporate culture). When effectively communicated to external audiences, corporate culture can do more than unite employees. It can become an asset in developing new customers, growing loyalty among current customers, and building brand awareness to create a community of customers around the world.

Earlier this year, Valve Corporation’s employee handbook leaked online. Valve is the creator of video games like Left 4 Dead and Portal 2, as well as Steam, an online store for digital distribution of video games. Valve subsequently made the handbook available for download on their own website. We passed it around here at the The History Factory because it was an  interesting peek into how an innovative company talked about itself to itself. Unlike most company handbooks, Valve’s doesn’t outline their benefits package or dress code (though it links to an intranet site with that information). Rather, it speaks to new employees about Valve’s philosophy and breaks down exactly how they operate day to day. “This handbook is about the choices you’re going to be making and how to think about them,” it says. “Mainly, it’s about how not to freak out now that you’re here.”

By allowing its employee handbook to be read by the public, Valve put its philosophy on display in a way that is deeper and more meaningful than a simple website mission statement. “Valve” comes to mean something more to its customers beyond the name they see on their favorite game.

Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh appeared on the Colbert Report to promote Delivering Happiness, his book on entrepreneurialism and the Zappos corporate culture. Hsieh said that a workplace with a positive corporate culture leads directly to a more successful business: “If employees are happier and customers are happier and there’s strong company cultures, that actually drives business results and those businesses tend to outperform their peers in the long run.”

Valve and Zappos are just two examples of companies that promote themselves by promoting their points of view. They become more than businesses—and more than brands—by proudly sharing their corporate cultures with their customers and the world at large.

There’s an old saying that it’s better not to see how laws and sausage are made. But what if celebrating (and sharing) how your company works could be a good thing?

By Matt Jent, Idea Engineer


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