Tag: culture

Business owners trying to keep the lights on likely place “instilling culture” among their lower priorities (that is, if it makes the “priority list” at all). Articulating the values of a company often comes second to growing the business—but largely, that is a false choice. Identifying which values to build your company upon is an integral part of determining the company’s mission, goals, and overall strategy.

An upcoming panel discussion, “The Value of Values for Founders and Entrepreneurs,” explores the challenges businesses face when articulating their values. I asked Stuart Bunderson, George & Carol Bauer Professor of Organizational Ethics & Governance and co-director of the Bauer Leadership Center, and the panel’s moderator, Cliff Holekamp, senior lecturer in entrepreneurship and director of the entrepreneurship platform, to shed light on why crafting values and a strong culture is critical to success.

Why is it important to articulate core values in the early stages of a venture?

Holekamp: While in the early stage, young ventures are evolving and still figuring out who they’re going to be when they grow up. It’s at this formative time when a leader has the most impact on instilling the values that will become part of company culture for years to come. If you aren’t purposeful about the values and culture of your early-stage venture, then you’ll end up with a later-stage venture whose values and culture are accidental.

Bunderson: In the earliest stages of a new business, every decision can set a precedent and become a statement on what the organization values and aspires to become. Those decisions should therefore be made with a clear sense of the values that founders would like their organization to embody.

What challenges do founders face in articulating and instilling these values?

Holekamp: Perhaps the biggest challenge is to remain authentic to yourself and to your business. There are lots of positive values in this world, but as a founder you need to emphasize those that are true to who you are. As a leader, you are influencing your business and its constituents with every unintended word and action. If you choose a company culture that is an honest extension of your own best self, then it will be much easier, and more likely, that your business will be consistently infused with those values.

Bunderson: Pressures to chase funding or make near-term performance goals can lead founders to compromise on values. When founders cling to their core values in spite of those pressures, those values become part of the organization’s fabric.

What role do entrepreneurial values play in family firms that may not be the case in corporate firms?

Bunderson: Family firms may explicitly pursue values that corporations would not, values related to things like promoting the family’s good name and broader impact, providing learning opportunities for family members, or encouraging family members’ self-reliance.

Why should founders prioritize values and culture?

Holekamp: Both employees and customers want to be a part of something that is greater than a mere transaction of money for goods or services. A company that honestly conveys values offers something more than those that don’t.

Bunderson: Founders should prioritize values for two reasons. Core values that are woven into the fabric of the company can be a key source of competitive advantage that is not easily replicated. But perhaps just as importantly, if not more importantly, many founders want to create a company that stands for something besides just profitability.

What do you hope business leaders take away from the upcoming panel discussion?

Holekamp: Entrepreneurs and small business owners have the special opportunity to leverage their own personal values as a strategic advantage in business—a competitive advantage that their corporate rivals should envy. My hope is that more entrepreneurs recognize this, and leverage it to their own business and personal advantage.

Bunderson: A reminder of why values should be top of mind as they work to create a new venture.

Register today for “The Value of Values for Founders and Entrepreneurs.” There is no cost to attend, but registration is required.

About Stuart Bunderson & Cliff Holekamp

Professor Bunderson is the co-director of the Bauer Leadership Center and the George and Carol Bauer Professor of Organizational Ethics and Governance. He is also an honorary professor with the faculty of economics and business at the University of Groningen in The Netherlands. He holds a PhD degree in Strategic Management and Organization from the University of Minnesota and BS and MS degrees from Brigham Young University. His award-winning research on issues of leadership and meaningful work has been published in leading management journals.


Cliff Holekamp grew up in Los Angeles and worked as an account executive for IBM in Nashville before coming to Olin, first as a student. After developing the concept in Olin’s entrepreneurship program, he founded a chain of healthcare centers which he later sold to a private equity group. Prof. Holekamp was the founding director of the Entrepreneurship Platform, was the co-founder and architect of the social entrepreneurship programs at Olin and at the Brown School of Social Work, and has launched several new entrepreneurship courses including programs in Hungary and Israel. In addition to teaching, he is a co-founder and general partner at Cultivation Capital, an early stage venture capital firm.

Howard Ross, author of Re-inventing Diversity:  Transforming Community to Strengthen People, Purpose, and Performance,  will be delivering a keynote address on “The Science of Unconscious Bias” Friday, June 19 from 8:30 a.m.-9:45 a.m.,  at the School of Medicine, Moore auditorium.

Registration can be accessed here. Registration is limited to the first 275 registrants.

The learning objectives include:

  • Understanding the science, research, and impact of unconscious bias so that you can  be more aware in your decision making
  • Exploring the way the mind perceives difference and how that perception impacts business so that you can use it to enhance engagement, innovation and collaboration in your organization
  • Practicing new strategies to recognize and mitigate bias so that you can cultivate skills to affect change in decision-making, evaluation, and interpersonal and group interactions

diversity book coverBiography for Howard Ross
Founder & Chief Learning Officer at Cook Ross Inc., a visionary at heart, Howard has served more than 25 years as an influential business consultant to hundreds of organizations across the United States and in 21 other countries, specializing in leadership, diversity, and organizational transformation. He has trained faculty and staff at the medical schools of Harvard, University of California – San Francisco, John Hopkins, and countless others.

As a recognized thought leader, Howard brings invaluable expertise and knowledge on the topic of exploring, revealing and addressing Unconscious Bias. He is the architect of several award‐winning training and awareness programs, notably CultureVision and The Diversity Toolkit. He is also the author of Re-inventing Diversity: Transforming Organizational Community to Strengthen People, Purpose & Performance, published by Rowman Littlefield in association with the Society for Human Resource Management and also Everyday Bias: Identifying and Navigating Unconscious Judgments in our Daily Lives, published by Rowman Littlefield in 2014.

Bias book coverHoward was the 2007‐2008 Johnnetta B. Cole Professor of Diversity‐in‐Residence at Bennett College for Women, the first time a white man has ever served in such a position at an HBCU (Historically Black Colleges and Universities). He is a frequently invited international speaker for organizations and at diversity and inclusion conferences.

Here is a link to a 30-minute interview by AAMC Chief Diversity Officer Marc Nivet with  Howard Ross.

Contents from Daniel Blash, PhD, LPC, NCC, Asst. Dean, Cultural Awareness/Staff Diversity at WashU.

Image: Word cloud from www.blacktower.com

Greetings from Yerucham, Israel! We are currently on a Shabbaton through Onward Israel, which is a weekend getaway with other student groups where we get to spend the Shabbat together in the middle of the Negev. This has definitely been a unique and worthwhile experience for my classmates and me.

As the city of Yerucham is 60% deserted land and 40% populated, we definitely feel like we have left the vibrant and busy streets of Tel-Aviv Yafo (even though it is only a short two-hour bus ride away). Onward Israel offered four experimental tracks for both Thursday and Friday; we chose tracks depending on what we thought would interest us most. Friday, I choose the track entitled “Women and the Periphery,” during which we met women from Yerucham who had very special stories to share with us.

One of the women that we met was from the Bedouin community. Bedouins are an Arab, desert-living people who typically live off very little income and resources. Despite their low economic status, they greet their visitors with immense hospitality, which we all felt as soon as we stepped inside the Bedouin tent. The tent was covered in bright color tapestries and flowery cushions for us to sit on. Our Bedouin host greeted us with a big smile and was already there preparing us tea (which happened to be delicious, if you were wondering).

After we were all situated and everybody got a cup of tea, she began to talk a little bit about herself and the Bedouin culture. She pointed out that she served the tea from the right to the left, and this was not an accidental gesture. In Bedouin culture—no matter the gender or status of the person—you always serve that way. It was very interesting to me how seriously this right-to-left-serving-culture was practiced, as it was something that I never take note of when my family serves guests at home. Our host told us that if somebody was served incorrectly according to Bedouin custom, that person can go complain to the Chief and get the host in serious trouble. This led us straight to the discussion of the unequal treatment of women in Bedouin communities, which has been an ongoing problem for these people for years.

Even though the Bedouin culture has been modernizing in recent times, women are still not viewed as equal to men and are stripped of many of their social rights. However, with the support of her husband, our host goes against some of the Bedouin societal norms. Traditionally, Bedouin women are not allowed to host men as guests unsupervised or go off to college to achieve a higher education—but our host has done just that. Hoping and fighting for the equal treatment of Bedouin females everywhere, she is an inspiration to all of us.

Stephanie Abadi is a sophomore at at the Olin Business School and a member of the first class in Olin’s Israel Summer Business Academy.

Sadly, the trip is over and I’m back at school now but with the trip still fresh in my mind, I can’t help but reflect on the amazing places we saw and the people we met. While the whole trip was an incredible experience and I could go on and on about the cool startups we went to, etc, my favorite aspect of the trip was experiencing the Israeli culture, something you really can’t understand or grasp without going to the country. This was embedded in the places we went and the people we met and really stood out for me. You could really sense the determination and creativity, something truly unique to Israel.

Besides the culture, I thoroughly enjoyed going to the startups and listening to their ideas. One of my favorites was Wibbitz, which I know many of my classmates really liked as well. Besides the startups but on the same note, I thought that the Zell program was an incredible idea, and while there may be many similar programs elsewhere, the success of this program is outstanding. The whole entrepreneurial spirit and industry we witnessed has really made me consider what I want to do going forward.

It was also the Zell program and the dinner the night before with many of the current Zell students that made me wonder what the best way to go about education is. With all of the students, they went to the army first, and after the army they went off on their own ventures and involved themselves with that they enjoyed, eventually figuring out what they wanted to do in life. So when it came time for school, they knew what they wanted to do and focused on that. It seemed to be very efficient and a stark contrast to the model we have in America, but not at all saying what we do is bad.

Apart from the business aspect of the trip, it was nice again to the see the sites in Jerusalem and the old city. While I have been to Israel once before to see all of the sights – and most of the places we saw on this trip did overlap with my previous trip – I took away a lot more this time and it was a good refresher of what I had forgotten. I thought it was a good mix of business and history, and it helped to remind us of the contrast between the rich history of the country and the thriving business sector, both of which are pushing and pulling at each other and working to define what Israel is.

Overall, the trip was an incredible experience and there were countless things I took away from it. It really piqued my interest in Israel and I can’t wait for the next time I can go there.

Marc – Class of 2016, Olin Business School – NY

My excitement about the Israel trip continues to grow with every passing day. When I came to tour WashU as a high school senior I was told about the Business in Israel course and was immediately intrigued.

After speaking with Dean Malter during that trip I was determined to take the class during my freshman year. I can’t believe that, one year later, I am actually enrolled and preparing for our trip this spring break.

It is slightly intimidating to be one of the few non-Jewish students in the class. Many of my peers have traveled to Israel before and have a wealth of knowledge about Israeli history and politics. My position is very exciting in that I am starting from ground zero. I started the semester with absolutely no knowledge about Israel and every single class I leave knowing so much more than I did before. My classmates have been incredibly helpful in explaining certain colloquialisms as well as political history.

I am rapidly consuming Start-Up Nation and obnoxiously recommending it to anyone who will listen to me. I can’t believe I had no idea how powerful and innovative Israel is. I need to start researching the companies we will be visiting during our trip!

Olin Business School, Class of 2017
Hometown: Minneapolis, MN

The Business, Innovation & Entrepreneurship in Israel course at Olin Business School provides WUSTL undergraduates an opportunity to understand the interconnectedness between culture, politics and business, and how all three produce a unique and successful business environment in Israel. Students travel to Israel during spring break to learn first-hand about the Israeli business culture. Students in this course are asked to reflect about their in-class takeaways, as well as throughout their immersion trip to Israel.