Creating A Company Culture That Works
Allan L. Schuman
Chief Executive Officer of Ecolab Inc.
Last year, a temporary employee at Ecolab was given a copy of our annual report and a fact book to help familiarize him with the company. On the last page of the fact book is a listing and description of the six qualities that make up the Ecolab culture.
A few days later, he came into the department manager’s office and said, “About this Ecolab culture thing…employees don’t REALLY operate like that, do they?” The department manager said, “Just wait. You’ll see.”
Six months later, the temporary came back into her office and said, “I’m amazed. I’ve seen example after example of the Ecolab culture in action in dozens of people I’ve been dealing with.”
So what exactly is the Ecolab culture? It’s a series of attributes that our employees have adopted as a way to operate in their jobs and the way they treat others.
All companies want employees to take ownership in helping to reach their objectives. However, taking ownership is a two-way street. Employees have to feel that the company believes in its culture and them, and that management is willing to operate under the same cultural principles in dealing with them.
What does this have to do with corporate responsibility? Everything.
Corporate responsibility begins with creation of a culture that promotes growth and success in every aspect of an employee’s life. An employee needs to believe in the importance of what he or she is doing and have pride and enthusiasm for the company in order to be a good corporate citizen.
On the surface, it may seem too much to expect employees to show spirit ... pride ... determination ... commitment ... passion ... and integrity at all times in their work and in their relationships with other employees and customers. If these were just words, this would be true. But if these words represent qualities that are accepted and endorsed as a way of life, it becomes an operating system in which everyone wins.
Spirit. There is a spirit of innovation and service at Ecolab that started 75 years ago and continues today. This same spirit permeates the Ecolab organization today. Employees adopt corporate causes with fervent enthusiasm and willingly support one another’s efforts.
Pride. Pride builds upon itself. When a company attains industry leadership through exceptional products and exceptional service, it’s easy to feel proud. Our people go beyond selling products and actually help our customers to succeed. We offer instruction in hand-washing, food preparation, surface and equipment sanitation and other topics to keep grocery and food service bacteria-free and successful. Pride generates a desire to maintain that leadership through exceptional performance.
Determination. Ecolab employees are all determined to improve company performance by improving their own performance. Each employee is determined to work with customers to help them keep their customers by finding solutions to cleaning and sanitation problems and getting rid of pests that could cause disease.
Commitment. We are committed to each other and our customers. We reach out to come up with solutions to problems. When I was a junior salesman at Ecolab, I had trouble with one of my accounts – a restaurant planning to serve Thanksgiving dinner. I was installing new dishwashing equipment when a leak developed. Water started running all over the kitchen floor. I couldn’t stop it. I called my supervisor who left his Thanksgiving dinner and drove 100 miles to help me and my customer. That’s commitment, and the same helpful attitude pervades our company today.
Passion. Passion means an unrelenting desire to excel. Employees don’t sit back, satisfied with what they’ve accomplished. They constantly look ahead to see future changes that may affect the business. This passion has been one of the keys to Ecolab’s success. It keeps our market edge, helping us to introduce a continuing stream of new products – one-third of our offerings each year. Passion also means caring about every aspect of what we do, how we do it and whom we serve. This passion moves our business forward.
Integrity. We set high standards and abide by them, practicing ethical behavior. We want our customers to understand that we are reliable, trustworthy and honest.
Our commitment to these cultural principles goes beyond our employees and customers. It extends to the people and organizations in the communities in which we operate. As a company we support numerous causes within our communities and work hard to make them better places to live. And our employees give countless volunteer hours to help others improve their lives.
Will adopting similar culture qualities work for another company? You bet. But you have to be willing to walk the walk. Make the commitment to your employees, live it, and they will return that commitment to you. The rewards for everyone are great, and the working environment is wonderful.
Meet the Executive
Allan L. Schuman is the President and Chief Executive Officer of Ecolab Inc. With a B.S. in Marketing and Management from New York University, he joined Ecolab as a junior salesman in 1957, becoming president and CEO in 1995. Schuman is a Director of numerous industry and charitable organizations.
Ecolab Inc. develops and markets premium cleaning, sanitizing and maintenance products and services for the hospitality, institutional and industrial markets. Through wholly-owned subsidiaries, distributors, licensees and export operations, it does business in 130 countries outside of the United States.