Move From Culture to Cult

Hey, Team...

How many times a day, do we use the word "Team"? 

Almost every email I send to my board members, my students, our faculty and the senior managers in our companies, starts with "Team". 

  • First, this concept of team is deeply embedded into my DNA of managing companies over the years where the tiny difference between success and failure was almost totally based on the relationships of everyone working very closely together.  
  • Second, the methods I and my managers use in both business planning and in our sales and marketing work, is all about creating "The [company name] Way" where everyone in the company uses exactly the same sales and marketing processes, the same tools, the same technology and the same metrics to significantly improve sales and marketing productivity.  
  • Third, the process through which I teach my two Tufts courses-"Entrepreneurial Marketing" and "The Science of Sales"- is through my students working very closely together in teams of six to produce detailed marketing or sales plans for real companies over the period of a 13 week semester.  The results are consistently very positive, and a primary success factor is the manner in which the students push one another and fluently use online collaboration tools in order to produce complex plans in just three months.  

When I observe truly breakthrough companies who move beyond the word, "culture", who year after year are listed among the top three slots of "Best Places to Work" in their specific markets, I ask myself what's different?  And this is when I use the word "cult" in a good way since the results of those breakthrough companies extend far beyond strong financial metrics and translate directly into very high retention rates for both employees and customers.

Hubspot-1What is it about Hubspot that year-after-year it's consistently listed as one of the top three large tech companies to work at in the U.S.?  63 of my personal Tufts alums work there currently, and over the past 10 years, only a tiny handful of others have left for bigger positions in other companies.  I love the Hubspot products, use them all the time, and I've brought them to every company that I work with including Tufts. 

Having said that, Hubspot has long lists of very viable competitors.  To understand why Hubspot wins more than its competitors and why employees stay and grow in this fast-paced company, one needs to go no further than Hubspot's Culture Code where the employees transparently talk about and eagerly embrace the environment that is uniquely theirs.  Sure, a good measure of this magic comes directly from both Brian and Dharmesh, but that same alchemy and passion is evidenced everywhere in the company from the Chief Evangelist, Dan Tyre, one of the company's first employees, to my 63 under-30 alums.

work inspired -1Similarly, take a look at Kronos, again, one of "The Best Places to Work in the U.S" . An extraordinary culture, again openly transparent, understood by everyone and evangelized by the ever-dynamic leadership of its CEO, Aron Ain I've had the privilige of inviting a large number of senior executives to Tufts over the last 15 years, and very few have inspired my students (and me) at the intensity level and the dynamic appeal that surrounds Aron.  Mick Jagger on stage in his energy, Aron brings to his employees and his customers the simplicity of statements such as "great businesses are powered by great people" and the detailed depth of content that resides in his recent book, Work Inspired.  
If you want to really understand the nitty gritty of creating great employees, read the book!


reiser logo-4And then there's Reiser,  where I have the privilige of being chairman.  We operate in very dynamic, highly competitive markets with high-demand customers who work in unforgiving 365/24 environments, and yet we continue to win, and our employees have very high loyalty to the company and to our customers.  The culture, evidenced through our CEO, Roger Reiser, is consistent, is dynamic and is simply and powerfully stated in the phrase, "BUILT ON TRUST". Roger is the company leader, but every employee believes that it is their own personal mission to exude trust with their customers, with one another and to the company itself.    

Just three personal examples of breakthrough company culture that becomes the positive side of "cult", and I'm sure that you have many other examples in your own companies.  For me, at these and other breakthrough companies, the common threads that I observe that become part of the corporate DNA are... 

  • Strong leadership at the top in the CEO, the senior team, and the directors of the company.  This becomes evidenced in an unwavering commitment to the mission, to the employees and to the value that's provided to the customers.  No fluff!
  •  Unrelenting focus on the customer value.  In the three examples above their success is not about the products and their related services, it's about the business value that they provide directly to their customers and their customers' customers. And, when they express "value", they do it in terms of business drivers, metrics and action verbs.  No fluff!
  •  Common language.  Very important is the simplicity of the words used by each of these leaders.  Their missions are clear, the words they use are easily understood, and they are very transparent in the translation of the value provided to their customers to all of their employees.  Add to that the fact that this easily understood and powerful language is marketed in everything that they communicate from trade shows to social media to logowear for all of their employees.  No fluff!
  •  Work hard and have fun.  Strong leaders work hard and expect the same of their employees.  There's nothing politically incorrect about messaging the expectations and the rewards of working hard.  It's my experience that in the best companies, employees embrace the culture of hard work and actively engage in an environment of both working hard and celebrating success by having fun. In a word, these companies are "human".  No fluff!

Whether it's working in your own team meeting this morning or watching the incredible team of the Pats win again this weekend, take a few minutes and reflect on what it would take to move your own personal culture or that of your department or your entire company from here to there.

Great examples of team and cultish culture will be unfolded at our Founder's Workshop, Friday, October 4th on Social Entrepreneurship featuring Tufts alums, Kevin Thurm, CEO of the Clinton Foundation, and Lisa Tanzer, CEO of Life is Good.  These two incredible examples of doing good by doing well along with real life examples provided by three of our amazing professors at the Entrepreneurship Center, Nancy Lippe, Julianne Zimmerman, and Karen Bressler and one of our most successful social impact entrepreneurs, Peter Sacco, the co-founder of Adelante Shoes, will make for a great day of learning, connections and extraordinary inspiration and energy!   When you come, just connect with me!

Have a great weekend!

Please stay connected!

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Advisor, Derby Management, experts in-
-Sales & Marketing Productivity
-Business and Strategic Planning

Director, TEC-Tufts Entrepreneurship Center
Cummings Family Chair Professor of Entrepreneurship
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Cell:  617-504-4222  


Tags: jack derby professor at Tufts, sales management productivity, sales effectivness, selling trust, Tufts Entrepreneurship, social impact, social entrepreneurship