Creating Culture: It’s Not All About Holding Hands and Playing Foosball

Earlier this year, St. Louis Small Business Monthly featured an in-depth article on Kolbeco and the culture we’ve created here. What’s interesting is that when you start talking to people about culture, one of two things come to mind:


  1. It’s all about having a bar, dart boards and foosball tables in the office where the team can have fun; or
  2. We’re an overly sensitive bunch who holds hands and sings Kumbaya in a circle to kick off each day

I’m here to tell you that culture is not about either of those things. Do we have fun? Yes. Lots of it. Do we care about each other, our goals, and perspectives? Absolutely. But building culture is about creating a very specific type of environment where purpose and values are at the forefront of everything we do. It’s about dedicating ourselves to being vulnerable and uncomfortable at times by practicing open, honest and straightforward communication – with yourself and with others.

Those conversations aren’t always pretty, but they do lead to better collaboration and more meaningful working relationships because nothing is standing in the way. This is true for our own team, and for how we work with our clients.

What do we at Kolbeco believe? It first begins with our mission: to be a catalyst for confidence and shine.

This leads to our values:

    • Be Cause Oriented … in every moment and every interaction
    • Build “Shine” in Yourself and Others … through embracing individual strengths, personal responsibility and leadership
    • Create Excitement through Celebrating Success … in the experience and final outcome
    • Be an Explorer … seek out new ideas with a can-do attitude, embracing each experience as a learning opportunity
    • Be Willing to Ask for and Receive Support … inviting teamwork and leveraging the strengths of the team
    • Accept and Celebrate Yourself and Others … fully, with no judgment or punishment for mistakes
    • Place Purpose and Values Above What It Looks Like to Others … because we’re so aligned with our mission and values it doesn’t matter if others don’t get it. We get it.

While this all sounds great and fluffy, living and working in this manner takes a lot of hard work, and a lot of hard conversations. We do extensive education and mentoring on our values. Every opportunity, challenge and conversation maps back to the values. And when we’re not living to our values, we talk about it so they don’t slide or get forgotten.

The bottom line: creating our culture and living to our values produces results. We know what we stand for, and we know what we’re trying to cause. What do you stand for? What are you trying to cause? Be clear, honest, and specific, and let the answers be your guide.