CEOs as culture leaders

Powerful Insights and Wisdom from Top Middle-Market CEOs: CEOs as Culture Leaders

In Leadership Resources by Brandt A. HandleyLeave a Comment

On ROI’s Into the Corner Office podcast, we have interviewed over 150 leading middle-market CEOs from companies across industries, and the advice and wisdom they have shared with us is unparalleled. We are excited to share some of these insights with you in a new form!

When we talk about culture, it can feel a little esoteric or touchy-feely. But in many cases, company culture is a tangible set of values and practices that shape not only the environment of a company but how it operates and the impact that it has. The most effective CEOs distribute messaging and action plans about that culture company-wide, and more importantly, actively exemplify the culture themselves every day.

A Culture of “We”

Darryl Schimeck is “very proud of the safety culture” at Versa Integrity Group, where he is CEO–and also Chief Safety Officer. For Darryl and Versa, “We as the operators of the business have to own it,” and leadership is an imperative component of that “we.”

At Edgerton Gear, “we” includes young people in the community–mentorship is a core component of the company, and Owner Dave Hataj takes an active role in mentoring high school students who are interested in working in the manufacturing industry. Through mentoring and teaching, Edgerton gets more than just new employees. As Dave says, “We’re in the [younger] community now, and getting kids for the shop is revitalizing [it.]”

That “we” can also include the customer. For a brand like Jiffy Mix (and its parent company, Chelsea Milling), serving the customer is at the very center of their company’s culture. As CEO Howdy Holmes says, “[Chelsea Milling doesn’t] do any advertising. We don’t do any couponing. We don’t do any freestanding inserts or anything that’s more traditional. And as a result, we can offer our product for less money but superior quality. It isn’t always about what’s the most profitable thing to do. It’s what’s the right thing to do.”

A Culture of Caring

In the end, the active roles leaders play in these situations demonstrate to their team members and customers that they really do care. For Darryl, simply reacting to accidents wasn’t enough, because “if you say we know we’re going to get four people hurt every year, it’s like ‘Okay, which four?’ Zero accidents are the only goal that makes sense.”

For Dave, it’s about not only supporting Edgerton’s team members, but also the community. He reaches a hand out to kids who remind him of himself – “Those kids in high school that were deemed ‘not college material’ by the school system.” Enter Edgerton’s answer: Shop Class! “Five days a week [the Edgerton crew will] get the kids. One day a week, [Dave gets] them in the classroom. The other four days, they get to job shadow and they get to be mentored by other gritty, crusty machinists. So, for 16 weeks, we get to pound on these kids and really beat in their heads that [they are] important.”

And at Jiffy Mix, Howdy knows their customers are not just buying their products, they are buying an experience, a memory, a feeling. “Whether it’s our [baking mix] or others, when you make some muffins or when you bake, you’re doing something for someone or you’re doing something with someone,” and for Howdy, that makes him “happy as a clam.”

Do your company’s leaders exemplify the company’s culture and values? At ROI, we specialize in recruiting leaders with the skillset and the culture fit for our clients. Learn more here:

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