The Costs of Culture

Culture - defined

As a product manager at Modus Create and having worked for other companies both large and small, my perspective on culture has shifted over the years. A good culture based on strong core values is hard to maintain. I have done my best to summarize a few of my thoughts on the whys and hows of culture. A series of posts will follow that offer a level of transparency to Modus Create. We will expand upon the lessons learned as we have expanded our client offerings and capabilities, became more profitable, and added team members around the world.

Culture statements are proudly stated on the walls of many companies, in their handbooks, and repeated in meetings. Culture is important, yet it’s common that businesses have a hard time maintaining culture as the company grows. Why does this happen?

Culture versus Perks

It is important to understand the difference between culture and perks. Culture, as defined in The Merriam-Webster Dictionary, is a way of thinking, behaving, or working that exists in a place of organization (such as a business). Perk, on the other hand, is defined as something extra that someone receives in addition to regular pay for doing a job. Without a doubt, perks can help add to a great culture, but it’s bigger than that.

Team Building and Company Culture

Many companies take pride in their culture. It’s not uncommon that they speak about perks when referencing it. Culture cannot be bought, but money does have a direct impact on culture. When employees say “Let’s quit spending money on team building and get better raises and bonuses instead,” they are recommending taking an event that helps with a company’s culture and replacing it with a perk. Are employees actually highlighting other buried issues such as lack of raises or salaries that are below market average?

Team building and having a cohesive team is so important to a business and its culture. The effect of removing such events can be damaging. Team members no longer feel connected. Trust, empathy, and understanding are disrupted. Face-to-face team building becomes even more tricky with remote teams. It is expensive to be able to get people together, but it is also expensive to hire and train new team members. Retaining current staff is cheaper than recruiting new staff. Constantly recruit your current staff to keep them engaged, happy, and performing.

When companies listen to employee feedback and remove team building events, things may seem to be ok in the short term. Then, as time passes, employees start realizing how much the company “has changed.” From small organizations to large organizations, it is common to hear “XYZ has changed so much since I started. It used to be fun and laid back.” It doesn’t have to be this way. Growing has pains. Communication, events, and many other things become harder. The key is knowing which expenditures are worth removing and which are not.

Hire to Support Company Core Values

The top priority of hiring should be not risking one’s culture. Having a strong culture that is non-negotiable allows growth while staying true to your core values. Every recruiter and employee must understand what the company stands for and what is expected from them when referring to culture. A potential candidate with the most impressive resume should never get a foot in the door if your culture could be compromised by doing so.

Remove Morale Killers

As important as it is to hire people that embody your culture, it is equally important to know when someone has become toxic to your company. Allowing employees who are negative morale-suckers to stick around benefits no one. Their actions contradict your cultural beliefs. It can lead to distrust amongst other employees and allow for an unnecessary negative buzz for the employees you hope to keep.

Culture Exposure via the Interwebs

Companies can easily advertise their great perks and culture on the internet. This has also allowed employees to have a voice. and social media sites are now places for employees to both rant and rave about their respective companies. When a company is doing things right, these outreach opportunities are wonderful. When employees are angry and burnt out, it can become a PR nightmare and recruiting hurdle.

Maintaining that Loving Feeling

So, what options do companies have to bridge gaps while continuing to grow and prosper? One idea is to have a team that represents the employees, management, and the company as a whole. By creating a culture team, a wide variety of ideas are heard and opinions are taken into consideration for enhancing cultural values. When a company is small, the CEO and senior level management team can often manage this. As maturity and growth happens, these roles are dedicated to ensuring numbers are moving up and to the right. No one aims to allow culture to be put on the back burner, but it can be a side effect of shifts in focus. In the same light, as a company expands both by numbers and location, it is important to make sure everyone feels like they are part of the company. Allow the people who are passionate and excited to pave the culture path.


Culture makes a company. Sometimes, your culture is stated all over the walls and ever present in conversations. Other times, it’s something everyone knows but is not formalized. Formalize your culture statements and make them visible for your employees, clients, customers, etc. When they are visible, a level of accountability is added. Anyone can question antics that go against the company’s core beliefs. On the flip side, posting words on a wall is useless if you do not live and work by them.

The next post in our series will give you a deep dive into Modus Create, exploring our core values, mission, vision, and team dynamic throughout our five year history.

Pat Sheridan, our co-founder and CEO, will describe our lessons learned throughout the years and identify some ongoing challenges to getting culture right at a Modus. With this series we hope to identify the current state of culture best practices, guest posts from companies we admire, and a wealth of other practical information from our experience. Our goal is to help others in the community learn from both our successes and shortcomings through transparency, honesty, and more than likely, humor.

Do you work for a company that understands what culture is all about? Which remote work teams are you following that have managed to keep an awesome culture? We would love to hear and share your thoughts or a conversation.

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