So, you’ve built a company that knows what it does well, why it matters, and who it serves. This mission statement and market focus informs your culture on every level. After all, the type of people we sell to shapes the type of people we are.
However, if you’re shifting from that core market – whether because of expansion, diversification, or simply because you want to keep pace with developing buyer demands and social trends – your culture has to change too. Thriving in new markets can only work if your organisation is capable of adapting to a refreshed sense of purpose.
Many big brands have broken into unfamiliar markets with no teething pains. Here’s why culture change is necessary for that success.
Seeing a market shift in practice
A quick glance at recent history shows us how some of the world’s leading corporations have moved flexibly with the times and, if anything, become stronger.
Harvard Business Review’s study of the 20 most adaptable businesses in the last 10 years throws up some huge names, such as:
- Netflix – which grew from mail-order DVDs into streaming and original programming
- Siemens – the tech company that abandoned mobiles in 2005 to refocus on AI, IoT and green energy
- Tencent – China’s largest gaming giant, which now pursues “tech for social good” more generally
- Philips – eager to talk about “light as a language” while they double down on data analysis for lighting fixtures
These brands join the likes of Samsung – perhaps the most instructive case for the importance of taking culture into account when exploring new markets.
The electronics giant began making TVs in the late 60s. A decade later, they were selling microwaves too, then tape recorders and PCs. By the late 2000s, they were still making digital TVs but had expanded into semiconductors and – crucially – smartphones. Now they even operate within the food, textile, retail and insurance sectors.
Samsung’s mission and vision have undergone many tweaks over the years. But its unifying principles have remained the same: Do what you can’t. Embrace the future. Discover how technology can revolutionise your day-to-day life.
The company has a hold on its essential values, yet they still make room to develop other traits. And when we consider what stays intact and what evolves in sync with your emerging markets, culture cannot be underestimated. It should embody your new mission so that it’s clear, inspiring and helps your colleagues feel good about the part they’re playing.
The effect of a culture change
How can culture change impact your market shift? Simple – culture reminds everyone in your team what they’re setting out to do every day. It helps them care. And when they care, they work harder to meet your goals.
We might define a fantastic culture as one that engages everyone within it. The cost of disengagement, on the other hand, can be huge. Workers are 37% likelier to take time off when they feel disengaged. They’re also at a 49% higher risk of an accident and are 60% more prone to errors. Culture essentially binds their role to a wider purpose, which makes the role more valuable to them.
This is vital when you’re introducing new services and products or expanding overseas. It can unsettle your current workers; they may fear for their jobs, or worry they’ll be less relevant. New workers, meanwhile, need to know where they fit into your retooled agenda.
The internal culture must mirror what you represent and are trying to accomplish on the whole. Otherwise, your messaging becomes muddied and you’ll struggle to drive your business’ purpose home.
How to prepare your culture for a new market
When implementing culture change, consider the following:
Get back to your core values first
Strip everything away and assess what’s left. Your brand will have a few persistent traits that have made it successful. Think: what pain points do you solve? Is your key benefit something social, professional, domestic, environmental, or a mix? What do you want the company to build on?
Identify what’s new and how your markets work
With enough research and demographic information, you’ll paint a picture of who the people in these new markets are – as well as the values they share. What do they want? How do they act? Could their beliefs and principles change your own?
Review your culture guidelines
Tone of voice. Common workday practices. Dos and don’ts in the office labs, production or sales. Priorities, management styles and in-work education. These draw a template for every employee, so they know how to behave and the extent to which they’ll be introduced to new ideas.
Factor international change if relevant
You may be hoping to expand into a new territory with a branch or production facility. If so, understand how cultural differences in terms of manners, etiquette and work habits differ from place to place and team to team.
Adapt processes and leadership
Methods of production and related skill sets may change too. Some people will be working with strangers, or doing something wholly fresh. Either way, be open about how things are likely to evolve in the next weeks, months and years. Let the workers and managers get used to each other in advance, and host events in which you explain processes, roles and hierarchies.
Finally, apply it to your recruitment or people development process
Take whatever you’ve learned and add it to your job profiling system – Why Job Profiling Matters. This is important because jobs shouldn’t just be weighed on eligibility – they also require a suitable candidate who will fit seamlessly into your culture. When you review who’s best for the markets you’re serving and those you serve already, it’ll give you a firmer idea of whether your culture guides the best work possible or needs further tweaking.
For that final point, we suggest using the Harrison Assessment method: a framework for grading cultural suitability and the talents of those you hire next.
Our founder, Sim Goldblum, has first-hand experience of what can go right if people pull together for a new market opportunity: he held senior positions at Ford of Europe when they acquired Kwik Fit. As they added bodyshops and recycling businesses, he was part of a company-wide cultural transition. Today, he swears by the Harrison Assessment.
It’s the benefit of going through this ourselves that makes us an excellent consultant for your own internal development. Call 0161 4646 156 or message firstname.lastname@example.org to chat about what markets you’re eyeing up, and how they could shape the bedrock of your business.