The Culture Currency

August 25, 2017By Views


by Dave Wendland, as seen in HealthCare Distributor magazine, "Out of the Box" column, May/June 2017

During my career in the consumer healthcare industry, I have visited thousands of organizations — from manu­facturers to distributors, service providers to retailers. It has confirmed for me that a company’s culture is the way the company “feels” once you’re inside the office walls, and that ev­ery organization is different.

I’m not suggesting that one culture is better than another or that one is right and another wrong, there are just marked differ­ences. Elements of a company’s culture can certainly be com­municated through a mission statement or set of corporate values, but it must be embodied by its employees and experienced by its business partners and clients to resonate. It must also be ad­vocated and practiced by senior leadership to set the tone and standard; and, as with our company, it should manifest itself in a multitude of ways.

Chances are you’ve walked the aisles of some companies and afterward wondered how or why they are even in business. Employees are frustrated, pride is lacking at every turn, and the overall attitude projected is simply sour. In fact, it wouldn’t sur­prise me if you had second thoughts about working with them based just on the feeling you got when you were inside their four walls.

In stark contrast, think about the organizations you have visited or those you hear about that are energized by teamwork, fueled by imagination, and inviting to guests and team members. It’s the kind of company that makes you feel inclusive, engaged, and comfortable. And it’s the type of company you desire to es­tablish a relationship with.

If you will indulge me, I’d like to share some of what makes Hamacher Resource Group (HRG) — the company I’ve called home for 25 years — stand out when I think of the places I’ve worked, as well as confirm why so many guests to our of­fice comment, “There’s something unique about your culture. Something very special.”

First, our associates are collaborative. Now, some may sug­gest that such an environment is undetectable to visitors. I beg to differ. When guests witness firsthand the collegial atmosphere, the openness of the office space, and the conversations that are swirling at any given moment, it’s collaboration they are seeing.

Second, our office is warm and inviting, even in the heart of a Wisconsin winter! Guests comment on the “niceness” of team members and the genuine interest being expressed. It could be concluded that most Midwesterners are just plain nice. Having lived in other regions of the country, traveled extensively inter­nationally, and worked with countless companies throughout the world, I’d have to agree that Midwestern values and attitudes are something to be proud of.

“Transparent” and “honest” are two other words associates have used to describe the culture at HRG. I’d add to that “cre­ativity” and “flexibility.” I believe all of these terms represent who we are, and that we’ve fostered a culture that encourages our associates to go the extra mile to think outside the box when they engage with clients and partners to solve challenges and create solutions.

Finally, another important attribute of the HRG culture is our commitment to supporting our community and the causes that mean the most to our associates. Whether it’s paying to wear ca­sual attire one day a week to support a cause; our annual Random Acts of Kindness challenge; volunteering throughout the year at greater Milwaukee area fundraisers; or other events and charities we contribute to, such as: breast cancer awareness, men’s health, brain injury awareness, and a myriad of others; giving back is an ongoing effort.

I’m especially proud that HRG was recently named among the 75 companies that are 2017 Top Workplaces in southeastern Wisconsin. In fact, we were ranked #25. Perhaps most striking in the article accompanying the full list of winners was a highlighted comment from an HRG associate, “I love the culture here at Hamacher. I like the employees and the fact that we all work together so well and have some fun on the job as well.”

Ask yourself what the defining attributes are of your company culture. What is that deep-down feeling that your clients, your associates, and your neighboring businesses experience that lends to their perception of your company? If you’re struggling to pin­point it, I’d encourage you to start simple. Look around — good or bad — you have a company culture. If you don’t like what you see, start redefining it. In my opinion, culture is the single most important currency your company has.