woman owned business

Why Corporate Culture Matters Most

Since Sterling opened its doors more than two decades ago, we’ve had lots of laughs, persevered through some difficult and scary economic cycles, evolved our service mix, attracted wonderful employees, and created many long-standing client relationships. All of that happened because we created a strong culture, worked hard, anticipated change, and added new skills to capitalize on market transitions.


Notice that I listed culture first? That’s because NOTHING is more critical than your corporate culture. It can guide you through heady times and help you survive the difficult times. While there are certainly central truths in any corporate culture, your corporate culture is something you must continually shape and nurture — it’s not something you can “set and forget.” (As we’ve seen, even legendary corporate cultures like HP’s can get lost over time if leaders focus simply on business unit performance and let the corporate culture languish.)

Your corporate culture is something you must continually shape and nurture—it’s not something you can “set and forget.”

Smarter people than I have written many articles on this topic, but from where I sit, corporate culture really boils down to three questions:

  • What central values are important?
  • How do you share them and encourage people to work in a way that’s consistent with those values?
  • What impact will your cultural values have on everyday operations? (Meaning, how will they shape the way you interact with your customers, partners, and colleagues?)

A corporate culture informs how you operate—and the behaviors that are rewarded—at work. It is reflected in the way you think and act, whether or not people are paying attention.

All companies regularly invest in physical resources like computers, desks, and office space; it is equally critical to invest in developing and enhancing your corporate culture over time. Why? Because muscles that aren’t used atrophy.

Here are Sterling’s core values:

  • We are deeply committed to employees. Accounts may come and go, but we get through both the lean times and workload spikes together.
  • We want every Sterlinger to lead a full and rich life. All work and no play will make ANYONE dull. Work smart, and try to emulate the Dos Equis guy.


    Even the Dos Equis guy likes to paint.

  • Family comes first. Most people will encounter at least a few speed bumps in life; when that happens to a Sterlinger, we are as flexible as we possibly can be.
  • Laughter and dog time are important parts of the Sterling workday. While there’s work to be done, there is always time for good humor and a quick belly rub.


    Did someone say, ‘belly rubs’??

  • EVERYONE gets dishwasher duty. Because it signals that we’re all in this together and no one is above any task, no matter how menial.
  • Contributing new ideas is mandatory. That’s how we will keep getting better – and we should always try to keep getting better at what we do.
  • Shoes are optional, except for client meetings, networking events, and open houses. Let’s face it: Creative types are a bit quirky.
  • Clients deserve our best thinking and best efforts. Always. After all, that’s what they pay us for.
  • Corporate politics has no place at Sterling. Ever. We have each other’s backs and happily celebrate everyone’s successes because it isn’t a zero-sum game here.
  • Honesty is not just the best policy — it’s the only policy.

As we continue to evolve our company, it’s important to identify people whose values are compatible with our corporate culture. There are many, many talented people out there, but we want the ones we think will thrive at Sterling. The people we get excited about in interviews. The ones we think will bring good energy and new ideas to our team.

The bottom line is that we can’t expect to be special, distinctive, and compelling in the marketplace unless we create something special, distinctive and compelling in the workplace. The Sterling culture brings our brand to life, so we need to carefully nurture it and find new team members who can make our culture even richer.

Think you’d be a great fit for the Sterling culture? Check out our Careers page and apply.

You can reach Marianne O’Connor at marianne@sterlingpr.com. You can also follow her on Twitter at @marianneoconnor.