What is Company Culture and Why is it Important?

Whether you’re a clinic owner, director, therapist, or member of the front office staff, you’ve probably heard the term “company culture” before. But do you know what it means—truly—and why it’s critical to the success of your practice and your happiness? Read on to learn the answers.

What is Company Culture?
There are plenty of definitions to go around. John Kotter, Chief Innovation Officer at Kotter International, defines culture as consisting of the “group norms of behavior and the underlying shared values that help keep those norms in place.” Author Erika Andersen defines culture as “patterns of accepted behavior, and the beliefs and values that promote and reinforce them.” Still others say that culture is quite simply a company’s personality or how a company gets things done.

The trick is to come up with your own definition—one that resonates with you, your team, and your practice. This definition then acts as a guidepost for the clinical environment you wish to create. After all, every company has a culture, whether it’s actively developed—or even recognized—or not. So unless you cultivate the culture you want, who knows what kind of culture you’re going to get?

Why is Company Culture So Important?
A bad culture can be very bad for your business. According to this article and US News and World Report, one of the main reasons employees are unhappy in their jobs is because of a poor company culture. And unhappy employees cost businesses dearly. In fact, this article reported the results of a Gallup study: lost productivity resulting from employee disengagement costs the US more than $300 billion annually. In today’s healthcare environment, just think how detrimental even a teeny, tiny portion of that loss could be for your practice.

And if that’s not enough of a reason to keep your employees happy, another Gallup study found that employees’ feelings about a company can actually predict future business results. In other words, a good culture can be very good for business. In fact, a good company culture leads to a better, happier, healthier workplace and a more profitable bottom line. But don’t take just my word for it; ask the Firms of Endearment authors. After researching hundreds of companies, they discovered that businesses loved by everyone—employees, consumers, and the community—are much more successful than those that aren’t. And those same “loved” companies are “wonderful for investors, returning 1025% over the past ten years, compared to only 122% for the S&P 500 and 316% for the companies profiled in the best selling book Good to Great— companies selected purely on the basis of their ability to deliver superior returns to investors.”

What’s Your Company Culture?
Now that you know what company culture is and why it’s critical to your success and happiness, it’s time to start thinking about your own. What is the culture currently in your practice? What do you wish it was? If there are any discrepancies in your answers, then it’s time to start re-evaluating. Need some help figuring out your next steps? Check out this article on how to identify your practice’s core values. These values will act as the foundation upon which you can create the culture that’s right for your practice. You can also read about my company’s culture creation process here and our core values here.

About the Author
Heidi Jannenga, Chief Operating Officer, WebPT ─ Heidi is the co-founder of WebPT, the leading electronic medical records (EMR) solution for physical, occupational, and speech therapists. As Chief Operating Officer, Heidi leads the product strategy and oversees the WebPT brand vision. She brings with her more than 15 years of experience as a physical therapist and clinic director as well as a passion for healthcare innovation, entrepreneurship, and leadership. WebPT was recently named to the Inc. 500, an elite list of the nation’s fastest growing companies.