Eric Soederberg, Sunrise Labs
Soapbox

Corporate Culture as a Competitive Advantage

By Eric Soederberg
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Eric Soederberg, Sunrise Labs

Integrity is what matters most, and it just makes good business sense.

The success of any company or organization, no matter the industry, hinges on the talents of its people. Whether your operation involves making apparel, educating young minds, manufacturing automobiles, or creating innovative technologies, you need a collaborative team and inspiring leaders to guide the way.

Where I work, we rely on a legion of skilled engineers to help bring next-generation medical devices to patients across the globe. If your company’s operation also depends on the abilities of your engineers, then you already know just how difficult it is to recruit and retain these talented professionals in today’s tight job market. Adding tremendous value to an organization, their skills are highly desired, making it a real coup for a company to land (and retain!) a rockstar engineer. We are fortunate to have some coveted talent on our roster, and thanks to our people-centered corporate culture, we’re in the enviable position of experiencing minimal turnover.

The Shortcomings of Company Perks

Modern companies are known to pull out all the stops in hopes of attracting competent recruits while keeping current employees happy. Whether it’s craft beer on tap, ping pong tables, catered gourmet meals, shuttle services, on-campus daycare, or even laundry services, companies are sparing no expense in showering their teams with a slew of wonderful perks and benefits. But even with all these great extras, employees still experience dissatisfaction at work and wind up leaving for greener pastures.

What exactly are these companies doing wrong?

Well, here’s something that I’ve learned throughout my long career—all the perks in the world can’t make up for a poor corporate culture. There’s no amount of breakroom snacks that can make an employee feel appreciated. Nap stations won’t compensate for a leader’s lack of integrity. And not even the prospect of Hamilton tickets can drive passionate work. True corporate culture goes beyond perks; it’s about building a community where people feel valued and respected—a place where they belong—and it all starts with directives from the top.

Assumption of Positive Intent

As president of the company, I freely admit that I’m biased in saying this, but the leadership where I work has built one of the best corporate cultures in the business world. We’ve done this by practicing a philosophy called the “assumption of positive intent”.

So what does the assumption of positive intent entail?

Well, it’s exactly what it sounds like—we assume that people behave with positive, rather than negative or malicious, motivations. Whether they be clients, co-workers or business partners, we start by assuming that others are acting in our best interests, and through conversations, we’re able to substantiate their motives.

Let’s say that our team of engineers lost a good deal of work due to the actions of a partner with whom we’re working. Instead of presuming there was backstabbing or ill-intent involved, our team will assume that our partners were acting in pursuit of our mutual interests, even serving as our champions. Then we’ll ask that they explain why specific actions were taken. Ten times out of ten, a rational explanation is given or an understandable mistake was made; and as expected, the party was not working against us, but working toward achieving our shared goals. By assuming positive intent, we work through issues without creating a negative or hostile environment in which people may feel discouraged, unappreciated or scorned.

Doing the Right Thing Is Always Good Business

It’s quite common for companies to have a singular focus on quarterly earnings or short-term profits, and it’s all too easy to make dubious compromises for the fast buck. My company’s corporate culture is supported by a rock-solid foundation of high integrity. High integrity means doing what is right, always, even if it’s not what’s profitable in the interim. In fact, when a tricky situation arises, I tell my team to take the profit impetus off the table and do what’s right, even if it costs the company money.

Integrity is what matters most, and it just makes good business sense. Integrity helps us to earn the trust of our clients and develop long-term relationships, keeps our industry-leading reputation intact and wins the confidence of end-consumers.

The (Work) Place I Call Home

I am lucky to work at a company where employees feel at home the moment they walk through the door—a place where they want to work—and it’s all due to our one-of-a-kind culture. Our team members respect one another, fostering a workplace ecosystem where everyone can deliver their best performance. Our commitment to putting people first is unique and has proven to be both a company strength as well as competitive advantage—giving us an edge in talent recruitment and retainment while supporting our company goals, industry reputation, consumer satisfaction, partnership longevity and overall success.

And it’s never all work and no play—we have melded some fun benefits into our company culture as well. Our imaginative planning committee puts together clever events that make each week a new adventure, including Happy Fridays, cookouts, parties, and all kinds of team-focused activities, bringing our staff closer together in a motivational and collaborative atmosphere. Simply put, coming to work isn’t just about joining another corporation, it’s about taking your place in an encouraging and welcoming family.

About The Author

Eric Soederberg, Sunrise Labs

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