August 2018 Features

Corporate Culture: The Secret to Survival


Written By: Betty Petty

When it comes to a company’s success, spreadsheets tell only part of the story. Overwhelmingly, in the business world companies are managed, analyzed and judged by their financial results, and many mission statements reference financial goals. While careful financial management is essential, it is a lagging indicator of success and doesn’t take into account the company’s most critical asset: its people – who they are, why they come to work and how they work together; in other words, the company culture.

The way we do things at Exactech is not always about the numbers. So how did a company that started with a $400,000 bank note and a prayer grow to achieve a $737 million-dollar valuation while competing with corporate goliaths on a global scale and maintaining industry-leading employee retention? The answer won’t be found in an Excel file.

Who we are

We interview and hire for culture fit.  A candidate who needs a secluded space to perform his best work would be respected for his needs, but we know he would not thrive in our teamwork environment since teamwork is one of our corporate values.  People whose personal values align generally with our other four corporate values tend to bond with those people of similar outlook, then support one another in the work to be done.  Getting to know each other engenders trust and that trust makes colleagues comfortable sharing ideas which leads to innovation, another corporate value.

Why we come to work

To earn a paycheck, of course! Today’s job market is growing hotter by the month, so what besides a paycheck keeps people coming back to work at your company?  People are generally more apt to engage in and apply their energy to something they see as worthwhile, something that, at the end of the day leaves them feeling good about having been there. For our company, that something is our purpose: to improve the quality of life for individuals by maintaining their activity and independence. We do this as a provider of innovative bone and joint products that improve patient outcomes.  Many other lines of work can produce deep satisfaction, but people who choose to work at our company find strong motivation in this purpose.  It is important that they do because the vision/dream that the founders had for the company cannot live on to create a “Built to Last” business unless employees also share in the dream and perpetuate the vision. 

How we work together

Everybody must have ongoing knowledge of where the company stands, where it’s going and what the plans are to get it there.  For us, that means leadership is setting those strategies and then trusting the teams to plan and own the goals and actions to achieve the strategic objectives.  An essential component of our working together effectively is the transparency derived from practicing open book financial management where in monthly meetings we celebrate the positives and address the challenges in addition to drawing inspiration from the patients who have befitted from our products.  We don’t always get it right – sometimes we disagree, a product development project stalls, projected procurement savings fail to materialize – yet through it all a mutual willingness on the part of leaders and employees to “hear the hard things” and address them is what gets us through.

We compete in an industry of multi-billion-dollar giants. One private equity evaluator said to us, “By all measures, you shouldn’t exist,” yet we have been able to grow steadily for over 30 years. Other companies can knock off our products or copy our strategies but they can’t duplicate our people and our culture. We are the only threat to our culture. It’s not static. It needs ongoing nurturing to protect the collaboration, innovation, openness, warmth and customer centricity that inspires others to want to work with us.

In the 2017-2018 Public Company Governance Survey of board members published by the National Association of Corporate Directors, “87% of directors say their boards have a high understanding of the tone at the top, but 35% of directors say their boards have a high understanding of the mood in the middle and just 18% of directors have a high understanding of the buzz at the bottom.”  Those in company hierarchy stand to gain valuable business insight by looking beyond their spreadsheets to capture the mood and the buzz.

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