In this segment of Lessons From Leaders on Corporate Culture, Miles HR speaks with Val Litwin, President and CEO of the BC Chamber of Commerce. The Chamber of Commerce works closely with decision-makers to advocate on behalf of and be the voice for businesses of all sizes across British Columbia.
Before joining the BC Chamber of Commerce, Val Litwin served as CEO of the Whistler Chamber of Commerce for three years. He also co-founded Blo Blow Dry Bar which now has 70 locations worldwide as well as previously serving as Vice President of Franchise Operations at Nurse Next Door.
Val is also well-versed in the social enterprise space. In 2002, he co-founded Extreme Kindness and launched volunteer tours and a web series based on committing random acts of kindness across Canada and the U.S. The tours evolved into a best-selling book on corporate social responsibility and the power of communities to build social capital.
How important is corporate culture to you and your organization?
“Culture is everything” has become a Fortune 500 cliché – and that’s because it’s true. The universe of issues our members care about (ie: urgent economic matters, changing political landscapes, shifting regulatory frameworks) can be stressful so we need a team that chooses to see solutions, silver-linings and opportunities – otherwise the road ahead will feel too long, too steep.
How would you describe your corporate culture?
Our culture is focused, driven and fun. We’re also a communicative culture. Office doors are never closed long because we’re reaching out, teaming up, vibing around how to move our strategic plan along. Our key interactive discipline would be our daily, weekly and quarterly cadences around strategy-execution-strategy-execution.
Is cultural fit more important to you than skills?
Cultural fit isn’t more important, per se, but if it’s missing it doesn’t matter how skilled the person is. Only a team member who is a true cultural fit will go the distance.
Has your culture changed over time and if so how?
Cultures are always evolving and in flux. They require nurturing and even course-correcting – especially when you’re moving through heavy execution periods where the team may be getting maxed.
Cultures also need to change when you have a long corporate history, like the BC Chamber, and you’re moving into an era of brand transformation. The BC Chamber culture has evolved to be much more “growth mindset” oriented, which means everyone in the organization is willing to challenge old ways of doing things. When done well, culture and brand can be synonymous.
What are your top 3 tips on creating and implementing a fabulous corporate culture?
- Celebrate the wins. When you’re working hard you have to celebrate BIG every time the team crosses a finish line.
- Articulate your values and apply them as filters on all key business decisions, when hiring and firing – and use them in daily conversations in the office so they become common currency.
- Talk about your culture! “Team, how are we doing? Do we need to change anything? What do we value? Is what we value changing?”
- BONUS TIP: As leaders we need to challenge our own thinking around what cultures look like, too – and let go of this false notion that leaders are its sole architects. Some of the best cultures I’ve seen are the ones that have been co-opted and genetically altered by the front lines.
Thanks goes to Val Litwin for his valuable contributions and insights on corporate culture!