How do you develop company culture?  Is it a vague, indefinable concept?  Or do you work on it like other facets of your business?  For our firm, it is an important part of who we are and is part of our management process. One of our strengths is our company culture, and it has become so due to a simple discipline: consistency.

Consistency is the most effective way to create a company culture.  Fore example, early in our firm's develpment, when faced with a difficult situation, one of the most frequently asked questions was:  What do we tell the client?

Every time an employee posed that question, I saw it as an opportunity to reinforce one of our core values: honesty.  I responded each time to that quesiton with the same answer: "The truth."

During a recent conference, speaker Marc Richmond of Practica Consulting, while discussing marketing strategy, said, "Honesty will break through all the clutter all the time." Although he was talking about marketing, is is sound advice for all of our dealings.

When confronted with a field condition different from what we anticipated, such as not finding solid earth for foundation footers, we are faced with a decision: Keep digging, or change the engineering to helical piers? We hold an internal discussion with the project manager, project lead, and, in this case the excavating subcontractor, to decide our best course of action. This action is based on one question: Are we doing what is best for the project and the client?

Then our project manager or lead will discuss the situation with the client and present our solution, detailing any cost and schedule implications.

Asking that question -- What is best for the project and client? -- throughout the process, elevates your company to one providing a service, not just a product.

These small but important opportunities to define your company culture happen every day. Maintaining simple, consistent answers to these key questions is an easy place to start working on your company culture.

Peter Pagenstecher is a principal of Brenneman & Pagenstecher, an upscale remodeling company in Kensington, Md.