Culture Beats Strategy

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Even when Apple consisted of just the two Steve’s (Jobs & Wozniak) they knew the kind of culture they wanted to create and it influenced everything they did from the people they hired, the advertising campaigns they ran and the products they created. Their culture paved the way for their pass success and it continues to influence and fuel Apple’s current growth and success. It’s why the leaders at Apple are famous for saying Culture Beats Strategy.

Of course strategy is important. You have to have the right strategy to be successful but ultimately it is your culture that will determine if your strategy is successful.

I’ve witnessed the power of culture first hand and the impact it has on the performance of sports teams, schools, hospitals, and businesses such as Hendrick BMW.

Turns out the same culture that fuels NASCAR champions Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Gordon also helps sell more cars.

When I visited Hendrick BMW in Charlotte to speak to their company I could tell they were different the minute I walked in the door. The receptionist and first person you meet is clearly the CEO of the company–Chief Energy Officer—and she dispenses smiles and positive energy to all who enter.

As you look around the showroom you notice that all the employees are wearing uniforms with classy blue shirts and the Hendrick logo on them. You get a sense that this is a professional group and unified team. You can also feel the energy in the showroom just as you can feel the energy when you walk into a great restaurant. I believe great cultures share great energy.

I also see a car featured in the middle of the showroom with a bunch of words on it.


When I ask the GM of the store what the words mean he explains that they read my newsletter about creating a power word for the year and each employee came up with their word. They then put all the words on the car for their employees to see when they come to work each day and for their customers to see what drives them to be their best.

Leaders at Hendrick BMW, similar to the great school cultures I’ve witnessed around the country, post positive messages around the building reinforcing their beliefs and principles. They celebrate their past success and make it very clear they expect future success. They are a culture that believes in developing champions who serve others.

In the offices it’s also obvious how they feel about negativity and what they do about it.

No Energy Vampires

Hendrick is also extremely selective in whom they hire and only those who fit their culture and possess a high level of professionalism are added to the team. They also invest a lot to train and develop their people in order to sustain success and retain their talent. Like all great organizations I’ve worked with, Hendrick knows what their culture stands for and they hire, develop and grow those who will thrive in their culture.

When I asked the Hendrick leaders if all these initiatives to invest in their culture and people have made a difference I was given a resounding YES. Turns out Hendrick BMW is the number one BMW dealership in the country.

Culture not only beats strategy it also fuels it and drives you and your organization to record growth and performance.

What are you and your organization doing to build a great culture? We want to hear about it? Share your thoughts below.

This post is by Jon Gordon. Jon is the international bestselling author of a number of books including The Energy Bus: 10 Rules to Fuel Your Life, Work and Team with Positive Energy, and Soup: A Recipe to Nourish Your Team and Culture. Learn more at