The difference between winning and losing Part 2: Company culture

May 30, 2012


Ferris Bueller doesn't have much correlation to a winning corporate culture. I just love that movie. That's all (Image credit:


In Built to Last, Jim Collins and Jerry Porras show that companies that consistently focused on building strong corporate cultures over a series of decades outperformed companies that didn’t by a factor of six and outperformed the general stock market by a factor of 15.

Like Ferris said in the bathroom of Chez Quis: “It is so choice. If you have the means, I highly recommend picking one up.” He was talking about Cameron’s dad’s red Ferrari. I’m talking about a winning culture.

So how does a company get one of those? Well, a red Ferrari comes from the dealership. But company culture, that starts with a story.

The difference between a winning and a losing culture is the stories people tell about the company. And stories are created through experiences. I suck at math, but even I understand this simple equation — (stories = culture = winning or losing brand). That’s something most business leaders understand.

The part they don’t understand is those stories aren’t told by them. Or their PR, marketing or advertising agencies. They’re told by the company’s employees. Every winning or losing company culture starts there. And employee stories come from one of two places: colleagues and their managers.

Think about the last time you started a new job. You probably went through some orientation and heard the ins and outs of how the company works. But really, orientations are usually just a bunch of key messaging from HR. It was after orientation when you met your team and your manager that you really started to get a feel for the organization. When you heard the stories they had to tell about your company. And when people at home asked you how the new job’s going, you likely answered with one or more of the stories you heard from your coworkers or manager. See how the dominoes fall into place?

This may seem like common sense, but it’s important to discuss because people don’t recognize the impact they have on a company culture. In fact, most folks who work at a big company will tell you their job doesn’t really matter all that much in the grand scheme of things. Wrong! Every story you tell your direct reports, colleagues or friends and family outside the office affects your company culture and whether people see a winning or losing brand.

Something to think about the next time you tell a story about the company for which you work. It’s so easy to be negative and people like to complain. And that’s fine. But if you don’t think contributes to a losing culture, you’re kidding yourself. Just like telling the positive stories about your company can contribute to a winning culture.

We tell numerous stories that impact our brand every day without even thinking about it. But maybe we should give it a second thought. Because the difference between winning and losing is usually made up of a few things that seemed small at the time. Know what I’m saying?

And maybe, just maybe, if we focus on the small things a little more, we’ll all have the chance to skip school, drive around in red Ferarris and eat French food. Winning!

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annedreshfield 332 pts

This is a great post, Justin. It's true: each and every employee can have an impact on a company's culture. In the past, I've caught myself complaining about a job (it's easy to complain, right? And everyone loves doing it!), so my friends assumed it was a horrible place to work and my job sucked. That wasn't true; they'd just heard all of the worst stories from me, and those were the ones they remembered. It's hard to remind yourself everyday that what you say makes an impact on the company culture, even outside the office, but it's truly necessary, I think.

My latest conversation: Doing Something New » College, writing, media, and musings: a journey.

JGoldsborough 245 pts moderator

 annedreshfield People definitely remember stories more than any other type of content, especially stories they hear from friends. And then when someone asks them about the company, they tell the story they heard from you. This has always happened. Social media just expedites the process. Thanks for stopping by!

Conversation from Twitter


@mattlacasse Thanks for the RT, bud. How's things?


@JGoldsborough You bet, man. Things are awesome. Between work, buying a house, Brandi nesting, and reading Game of Thrones, time flies.


@JGoldsborough How are you guys? Nesting in full effect?


@mattlacasse Doing well, thanks. 7 weeks til baby. Yes, some nesting reported :).


@JGoldsborough Ha! Think you're ready? Brandi had a diaper shower at school couple weeks ago. Never seen so many diapers in one place.


  1. [...] Justin Goldsborough is full of insights. In his recent blog post on Justin Case You Were Wondering, he examines company culture — and how it’s primarily shaped by the stories employees tell about their workplaces. [...]