What Cultivating a High-Performance Company Culture Means to 8 Business Leaders

Ping-Pong tables and whiskey Fridays have nothing to do with it.

learn more about Kim Lachance Shandrow

By Kim Lachance Shandrow


Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

The companies featured in this article are included in our Top Company Cultures list.

Sorry, bros. Building a rock-solid company culture has little to do with buttering employees up with outlandish perks. Sure, whiskey Fridays, breakroom yoga and bacon-wrapped cash are cushy-cool and all, but they can't hold a candle to a good, old-fashioned high-performance ethos in the workplace.

While it might not sound sexy, high-performance company culture is more about living and working by a set of unifying company-wide goals, values and beliefs. Whether explicitly laid out in a memo or a mission statement, casually discussed in a department outing or simply quietly understood, a business's culture informs how its executives and employees think, act and react on the job. A dynamic, engaging company culture encourages employees to rise to challenges, beat competitors and achieve results, all while rooting for every member of the team along the way.

Related: 8 Companies Reveal Their Secret Sauce to a High-Performance Culture (VIDEO)

The good folks of CultureIQ, a New York City-based purveyor of company culture-management software, are experts in company culture. We recently joined forces with the startup to highlight companies with exemplary company cultures. Together, we're bringing you our inaugural Top Company Cultures list.

As part of the initiative, we asked the many businesses that applied to be on the list what a high-performance company culture means to them. Here's a roundup of the best answers we received from some of today's top business leaders.

1. Ensuring everyone is aligned.

Company: BetterWorks
Headquarters: Palo Alto, Calif.
Founded: 2013

A high performance culture is one that is completely aligned and on the same page. Employees who are part of a high-performance culture focus on the work that matters most, facilitate collaboration across departments and are able to identify high-risk areas and react quickly.

According to MIT researcher Donald Sull, the single greatest challenge that global CEOs face for executing their company's strategy is failure to align. We believe that when companies are truly aligned, company strategy can be executed and all employees can perform at the highest level.

-- Kris Duggan, co-founder and CEO of BetterWorks, a company that provides enterprise software to carve out and manage goals.

2. Hiring and cultivating people that believe in your mission.

Company: FlexJobs
Headquarters: Boulder, Colo.
Founded: 2007

At FlexJobs, a high-performance culture means that we hire for and cultivate amazing people who are supported to excel, who believe in both doing well and doing right in order to reach our company's goals. Communication and prioritization are two of the key elements for us, and we consciously seek out ways to integrate them so that that our team members can be successful in their roles and perform to the best of their abilities.

From a people management perspective, we love exploring creative, inspiring and useful ways to help all of our stakeholders, and it's critical to always do so with integrity. Finally, I would also say that we don't shy away from challenges because we know that the end result of hard work will be that we're helping more people to find jobs.

-- Sara Sutton Fell, founder and CEO of FlexJobs, an online job service that helps people find part-time, flexible and telecommuting jobs.

Related: 5 Secrets to Maintaining a High-Performance Culture in a Growing Company

3. Focusing on your employees' needs.

Company: AppLovin
Headquarters: Palo Alto, Calif.
Founded: 2012

A high performance culture puts the needs of its employees first so that they can perform their absolute best and enjoy the work. This creates a sustainable work environment that continuously produces an environment for growth (both company and individual employee) and top-notch results.

Our environment offers respect and provides an atmosphere for learning. We deliver an extremely high quality of work because we demonstrate to our employees that we care about them and they, in turn, take care of our customers and the results they drive for them.

-- Katie Jansen, vice president of corporate marketing at AppLovin, a business that offers mobile marketing automation and analytics.

4. Allowing employees to take ownership of the company's culture.

Company: Clockwork
Headquarters: Minneapolis
Founded: 2002

It means the culture supports people in doing the best possible work and, on the flip side, every person is expected to take ownership and responsibility for that culture. The culture should reflect the values of the organization and empower individuals to achieve and succeed in their roles. High-performance standards should not only be applied to the work, but also to how people treat others, feel about each other, and the energy they bring to the team.

-- Nancy Lyons, co-founder and CEO of Clockwork, an interactive agency specializing in digital strategy, content, design and technology.

5. Removing as many constraints as possible.

Company: TeamSnap
Headquarters: Boulder, Colo.
Founded: 2009

Culture is the fuel that drives our company's success. When people are happy and empowered to do their best work in an environment of trust and autonomy, productivity and effectiveness soars. You don't work for TeamSnap. You ARE TeamSnap.

Most traditional company policies are designed to impose constraints on employees under the theory that workers are untrustworthy cogs who will do as little as possible if not carefully managed. We believe exactly the opposite. We firmly belief that people want to work hard and enjoy deep satisfaction from building something together. We ask ourselves how many constraints we can remove. A high-performance culture isn't something you impose; it's something that develops when everyone is empowered to make the workplace their own.

-- Andrew Berkowitz, co-founder and chief creative officer of TeamSnap, an online service and management software for sports teams.

6. Creating a community that fosters your values.

Company: MailChimp
Headquarters: Atlanta
Founded: 2001

Culture at MailChimp is all about developing and empowering our employees, creating community and maintaining that community as we grow. We work hard to foster our core values of humility, creativity and independence. We also have a mantra: "Listen hard, change fast." These ideas empower our employees and, in turn, they empower our customers and build great products. Our culture is about more than perks and buzzwords; it fuels the growth of our employees and the company as a whole.

-- Marti Wolf, chief culture officer of MailChimp, an email-marketing service.

Related: Why Digital Marketing Firm Elite SEM Makes Employee Happiness Its Number-One Priority

7. Highlighting how you approach and conduct business.

Company: HubSpot
Headquarters: Cambridge, Mass.
Founded: 2006

To our team at HubSpot, a high-performance culture means three things: a culture strong enough to attract talent that raises the bar on what's possible in your company, remarkable enough to keep top talent engaged and excited to come to work every day, and transparent enough to keep identifying and iterating on amazing ideas from employees at every level of the organization.

Done right, culture should serve as a promise to your employees and your customers on how you approach your business and go beyond telling a great story to helping inform how employees actually behave on a daily basis.

-- Katie Burke, vice president of culture and experience at HubSpot, an inbound marketing and sales platform.

8. Determining the right goals for your company.

Company: Grovo
Headquarters: New York City
Founded: 2010

A high-performance culture means identifying the right goals, setting them at the appropriate times, recruiting and empowering the right people to execute them and establishing transparency across the company to enable different functions to operate as a single, united team.

-- Jeff Fernandez, co-founder and CEO of Grovo, a company that provides microlearning videos for employees.

Related: 5 Business Leaders Reveal the Secrets to Creating An Amazing Company Culture

Interested in being part of our 2016 Top Company Cultures list? Sign up to receive updates about the upcoming list.

Kim Lachance Shandrow

Former West Coast Editor

Kim Lachance Shandrow is the former West Coast editor at Entrepreneur.com. Previously, she was a commerce columnist at Los Angeles CityBeat, a news producer at MSNBC and KNBC in Los Angeles and a frequent contributor to the Los Angeles Times. She has also written for Government Technology magazine, LA Yoga magazine, the Lowell Sun newspaper, HealthCentral.com, PsychCentral.com and the former U.S. Surgeon General, Dr. C. Everett Coop. Follow her on Twitter at @Lashandrow. You can also follow her on Facebook here

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