Creating An Innovative Corporate Culture, Citrix Style

This article originally appeared on Forbes HERE

As part of UC Santa Barbara’s Distinguished Lecture Series, Citrix’s CEO, Mark Templeton shared his advice regarding building and maintaining a healthy and innovative corporate culture.

Mark framed his comments around the culture he built at Citrix, which has been augmented (and complicated) by the significant number of acquisitions the company executed during the past decade.

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You can watch a twelve-minute excerpt from Mark’s talk below or view it directly on YouTube here: http://bit.ly/UtAGwM

Culture Club

Mark began by humorously describing Citrix’s culture: “It’s kind of a cult.  It’s a special cult where we all have a lot of fun together and no one dies.  A culture is about everyone belonging to something they believe in… something of great and higher purpose than them.  The fundamental motivation for people in a business is to do something important… that’s of greater importance than themselves as individuals.”

Ingredients In the Culture Stew

Mark goes on to explain that Citrix’s culture is driven by the following underlying values.

1. Humility – Obligation Before Opportunity

It’s about caring about someone else first.  You wake up and two phones ring… one is an existing customer, they’ve got a problem.  The other one is a new customer that wants to buy something from you.  What do you do first?  (Mark gestures toward the phone call from the existing customer) Obligation before opportunity – putting someone else first, before what’s in your interest.  That is the core of humility.

2. Integrity – Do The Right Thing, Always

Mark encourages emerging entrepreneurs to maintain their integrity, especially when it is easier to take a shortcut.  The ‘right thing’ means follow the rules; the ones that are written, the ones that are not written and the rules of common sense.  It’s not good enough to just follow the written rules. 

Do (the right thing), especially when it’s the hardest thing to do.  Lots of times, when people get in trouble on integrity, it’s all about taking a short cut.  I tell everyone that joins Citrix, ‘If anyone ever asks you to do the wrong thing, the first thing you do is say, “No” and the second thing you do is call me.’

3. Respect – Hierarchy Is Evil (But Necessary)

Mark reinforces to his employees that respect is something earned, not something granted because of someone’s title or tenure with the organization.  “I define respect in business as, ‘understanding that hierarchy is a necessary evil of managing complexity.’  Most companies associate respect with hierarchy.  We don’t do that because we accept that people have to have different titles… to manage complexity, but it has nothing to do with the respect that each person in the company gets and is expected to give.”

How do you use these values to sponsor a culture that consistently binds over 7,000 people across the world?  According to Mark, it starts with people. “We find people that have these values.  We are picky about them, when we hire them and when we acquire them.  If you choose well, then everything after that is much easier.

A company culture is how a company gets things done.  People are the hardware, values are the operating system and we want  a common operating system across the company.  On top of that, we can build all types of apps to do all the kinds of things we want to do in all the types of businesses that we’re in.”

The Magic Formula

The people, internal values and tasks a company performs are only part of culture puzzle.  The other key aspect is how the internal culture manifests itself externally, with respect to customers, partners and other stakeholders.  “We help people live better and work better.  So you put these two things together every day, over and over.  You’re delivering value to employees… and doing great things for customers… it’s a magical formula.  Employee value plus customer value equals shareholder value.”

We Become What We Believe

Mark closes by describing Citrix’s core belief, which unites their employees and has provided them with a singular focus over the past two decades.  In Mark’s words, “Belief is a powerful force in the universe.  If you believe in what you do and if you have thousands of people who believe in what they do because you have a common culture… it’s amazing what happens.

We have this core belief that people should be able to work and play from anywhere.  That is an important binding element across everything that we have done and will do because when people can work and play from anywhere, they can live better and work better.”

Have your employees internalized the values that underlying your organization’s culture? Not sure? Survey your team to ensure that your company’s culture is built upon a stable and secure “operating system.”

Follow my startup-oriented Twitter feed here: @johngreathouse. I promise I will never tweet about a blown NFL call or a killer burrito I just ate – just startup stuff.

John Greathouse

John Greathouse is a Partner at Rincon Venture Partners, a venture capital firm investing in early stage, web-based businesses. Previously, John co-founded RevUpNet, a performance-based online marketing agency sold to Coull. During the prior twenty years, he held senior executive positions with several successful startups, spearheading transactions that generated more than $350 million of shareholder value, including an IPO and a multi-hundred-million-dollar acquisition.

John is a CPA and holds an M.B.A. from the Wharton School. He is a member of the University of California at Santa Barbara’s Faculty where he teaches several entrepreneurial courses.

Note: All of my advice in this blog is that of a layman. I am not a lawyer and I never played one on TV. You should always assess the veracity of any third-party advice that might have far-reaching implications (be it legal, accounting, personnel, tax or otherwise) with your trusted professional of choice.

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