The secret to building an authentic company


Steve Jobs may have almost made the turtleneck fashionable again, but it was Mark Zuckerberg who really kicked off the “casual clothes in the office” trend. But it wasn’t just the fact that the clothes were casual that stirred things up. It was the fact that the style was so authentic to Zuckerberg.

As the line between work and personal life increasingly blurs, companies increasingly need to appeal on a genuine and personal level. This means having an authentic corporate culture that is consistent and readily visible, which employees can relate to and align themselves with.

So what exactly makes a company authentic?

1. Company culture begins at the top

While authentic companies permeate a consistent culture across all levels of the hierarchy, this culture usually flows from an inspirational leader at the top.

Company leaders have the most visibility, and the greatest power to affect organisational change. They create policies that are consistent with their company’s personality, and make hiring decisions that build a team that is consistent with this.

The most effective and authentic leaders envisage a winning company culture, and inspire all employees to buy into it via everything he or she says and does. This is the first sign of a truly authentic company.

2. Culture permeates everything

It’s not just what your company sells that counts. From typical office hours and attire, to sick days, employee gifts, and even the end of year Christmas party, company culture must be visible in everything a company does.

As an example, Google doesn’t only want the best and the brightest – it also wants innovative, creative thinkers. For this reason, the hiring process places as much emphasis on creative thought process and quick thinking abilities as it does on technical skills or qualifications. It allows employees to spend 20% of their time working on whatever they want, and reduces employee stress by providing on-site laundry services, coffee, meals, and a gym (amongst a number of other cool things!). In this sense, their creative culture permeates every aspect of working at Google.

By exuding culture at every point, companies will naturally exude authenticity also.

3. Work flows into personal life…and vice versa

This point may seem somewhat contentious. After all, the increasing pervasiveness of technology means we are “switching off” less and less from our jobs.

But employees who are truly aligned with the authentic vision of the company they work for may view this point differently.

People who buy into the vision of their company often genuinely want to resolve work challenges, complete exciting projects, and create new and innovative things. They also find ways to include interests, hobbies, passions, and personal values into their daily work lives – and authentic companies will encourage and facilitate this too.

It’s exactly what we strive for at my firm, with employees encouraged to make their jobs more or less what they want them to be, instead of being confined to a pre-existing list of dot points on a job description.

Because the bottom line is that for a company to be truly authentic, its employees must be empowered to be their authentic selves too. In a turtleneck, or otherwise!


About the author

Clayton Howes is the co-founder and CEO of digital consumer finance firm MoneyMe. He’s an expert in personal finance as well as small business and start-ups.