The late, great management consultant Peter Drucker famously said “culture eats strategy for breakfast”.
He didn’t mean a sound business strategy was not important, rather it doesn’t matter how great your strategy is if your company culture is lacking.
One company with a very strong culture – and strategy – that is making great inroads in Western Sydney is Akura.
From humble beginnings as one residential builder and his truck in 1976, Akura has grown to become an industrial design and construction firm with a 100+ strong team and more than 550 projects under its belt.
A family business based in Bathurst NSW, Akura opened a Sydney office in 2020 and now has a pipeline of $250 million in projects spanning northern NSW to central Victoria.
I recently met up with Akura business development manager Adam Perrett to visit a new industrial/commercial unit complex in Arndell Park which the team was putting the finishing touches to. They had commenced construction just eight months earlier.
You can watch our site visit and conversation on YouTube.
One of the things that struck me in my conversation with Adam was how the company’s family business roots and ethos still drives its culture today.
Akura’s founder was known for his laser-focused approach to quality and efficiency back when he was a residential builder, and that focus on excellence has not wavered as the business has transformed into its current iteration.
Akura maintains its tight control on quality and efficiency by providing a turnkey service, from architectural design and planning approvals, to in-house manufacturing of structural steel and precast concrete components, and – finally – construction.
“It’s one of our key success factors, that it's been a family business for over 40 years. That still resonates through the business today, both for someone who works for the company and the way we do business with our clients,” Adam told me.
“We operate with integrity and honesty and that really transfers to why clients like us.”
Indeed, the clients really do like Akura – Adam tells me that more than 70 per cent of their work is from repeat business and referrals.
For those working in the Akura team, Adam said the company culture promotes collaboration, honesty, work ethic, no ‘loose ends’ and dedication.
“We’re all in it together and at the end of the day we want to all be part of a growing company on the road to success,” he said.
And the result: “A quality product that we can all put our name behind.”
Creating a successful business culture
We can’t all become successful, 40-year-old family businesses overnight, but we can take elements of a successful family business culture and incorporate them into our own businesses.
Here are my 7 secrets to growing a great team culture:
- Continuous Learning – Treat every failure as a learning opportunity and focus on what one might do differently next time, rather than just on the impact of the failure.
- Continuous Improvement – Encourage continual betterment, personally and in the work team. If the last job delivered was good, ask ‘how can we improve on it even further?’ Improvement doesn’t have to be in big leaps; baby steps can be just as valuable. Set positive challenges.
- Transparent Communication – Don’t sugar-coat communications. Tell it like it is - in a manner that's respectful. Communicate to others – whether it’s positive feedback or critical comments – in the same manner in which you would like to be communicated to if the roles were reversed.
- Positive Reinforcement – We all like to feel valued and that we are making a worthwhile contribution. A little positive reinforcement can go a long way to boosting team members’ self-esteem and motivation.
- Sharing Knowledge and Know-how – Be generous with your knowledge and know-how. Encourage team members not to be ‘self-protective’, but rather to share their ideas and help each other achieve goals.
- Recognising Effort, Improvement and Achievement – Celebrations don’t just need to occur when someone wins a race or delivers a project on time and in budget. Little steps forward, such as tackling a personal or business challenge, mastering techniques and putting in significant effort, are also worthy of recognition.
- A Genuine Team Approach – Team members need to demonstrate that they have each other’s backs, without having to explicitly say so. A leader’s role, in terms of fostering this quality, is to lead by example and also to give positive recognition to this behaviour when seen in others.
Practise what we preach
The reality is we all aspire to create and maintain a good culture, but do we truly practise what we preach on a consistent and regular basis?
I know that I still have a long way to go to be a top-shelf leader of a good culture. But from experience I also know that living and implementing these methods can be truly satisfying and can deliver a high-performing team that goes way beyond expectations.
* About the author: James Price has 30 years’ experience in providing strategic, commercial and financial advice to Australian and international business clients, through his advisory, transaction and valuation firm, JPAbusiness. Follow the link to listen to the Let’s Talk Business podcast with James Price, or read the JPAbusiness blog online.