A Cult-Like Culture, Intolerance, and Obsession

Robert Kohlhepp spent nearly 50 years working for one Company. He started as the Controller and retired as the Chairman of the Board. When he first joined, Cintas sales were about $1.5 million annually. Today they’re over $7 billion.

Bob’s book, Build a Better Organization, tells a story of attitudes and practices he used to succeed. He believes organizational culture is the heart of success.

Silly goat.

Complexity and ambiguity make success unlikely.

Culture:

The reason many people don’t succeed is lack of obsession. If the term ‘obsession’ is too strong a word for you, don’t expect remarkable success.

Bob is obsessed with organizational culture. He said they weren’t a cult, but they had a cult-like culture. People always looked professional, facilities were always clean, and delivery trucks were always washed. The operative term is always.

Choose something simple and actionable to obsess over.

Complexity and ambiguity make success unlikely.

Intolerance:

Tolerance is the reason high standards drop to average expectations.

Culture building includes intolerance. Where are exceptions unacceptable? Bob tells the story of driving behind a dirty Cintas truck. The General Manager explained that the water froze. But there are no exceptions. Figure out how to wash the trucks even if the water freezes. (see video)

Respect:

A culture of respect doesn’t care where answers come from.

If you want to know what’s really happening in an organization, don’t ask the manager. Ask the frontline employee.

One of Bob’s favorite sayings is, “We don’t care who is right. All we care about is what is right.”

When there’s a problem, go to the frontline for insight and suggestions. Bob said frontline employees almost always know what the problem is and usually know how to solve it. They’re wondering why someone doesn’t come ask them about it. (see video)

How is culture-building done?

Purchase, Build a Better Organization.