Branding Your Company Culture

The old proverb, “the road to hell is paved with good intentions,” can be applied to any number of C-suite executives who intend to create a company culture for their employees, but who never quite execute on their maxim.

It is the single biggest failure of any CEO.

Without a clear definition of what your company culture is and consistent execution of that culture, employees will never fully commit to the mission, and therefore hamper your company’s chances for success.

Human capital is the biggest investment any business owner will make, however it is never truly treated as such.

Too often, employees are treated as a dispensable commodity. The notion that any person can be replaced is foolish when taking into account the time and money that went into developing that employee’s role within the company. Legacy knowledge of the business and its workflow cannot be valued in terms of dollars and cents.

Branding your company’s culture is the most transformative thing any CEO will do.

In 1930 IBM founder Thomas Watson Sr. wrote a series of essays on leadership titled “Democracy in Business.” In it, he defined the “IBMer” as the following:

IBMer captures the heart and soul of the person. It has no social standing

associated with it, no position of stature, no power ranking within the

corporation, no underlying hierarchy supporting it, no social class or pay

grade; rather it defines a person’s heart, a person’s commitment, dedication

and loyalty. Most of all, the term defines the person using it as being a win-win

relationship with a company – a company that, in the past, saw itself as a


IBM might have been the first company to truly brand its company culture, and its standing as one of the worlds biggest and most successful companies is a testament to the importance of that distinction. To this day, people who work for IBM are called “IBMers.”

Similarly, Google employees are called “Googlers” and Facebook employees are called “Facebookers.”

At Unified, where I serve as executive chairman after nearly five years as CEO, employees are called Unificorns, and we branded our company culture with its own hashtag "#uLife," and at one point we even created a Unificorn mascot, which resembled a unicorn.

When I was kid working part time I had a boss who gave me a piece of advice that has stuck with me to this day. He said, “Treat the business as if you owned it.” The trick is, how do you get employees to treat the business as if they owned it? The answer is really simple. By defining your company culture, and executing on it, you will empower employees to take ownership of their mission.

At Unified we had a “culture committee,” and in every office flat screens would welcome every new employee and wish every person a happy birthday, for the whole day in every office across the company. Our company culture was initiated from the first interview to an employee’s exit interview. Unified’s DNA is embedded in every communication, every project, every meeting and every client from the very start, and it’s one of my most important legacies that I'm happy to transition to my co-founder and new CEO.

There are no classes in business school that teach this concept. Every CEO will learn this on the job. But it’s a lesson that will come in handy time and time again, from one company to the next.

In the Ridley Scott film “Gladiator,” Proximo tells Maximus “Win the crowd, and you will win your freedom.” In business, win your company culture, and you will win your industry.

In five short years we won countless awards, including Best Places to work in New York City by Crain’s and 40 Best Places to Work by Ad Age.

Congrats to the Unified Family. I couldn't be more proud to be a founder of such a valued-orientated organization.

#uLife for Life!!!

Who Am I?

My name is Sheldon Owen, I’m a serial entrepreneur, investor, advisor and speaker. I'm the Executive Chairman and Co-Founder of and Founder/CEO of 

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