March 21, 2024

Your Company Culture Has Roots in Your ‘Place’

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I am a very proud New Jersey’ian – period, full-stop! In fairness to the 175-mile-long and ~50-mile-wide stretch of land, I should probably be more specific by saying North Jersey and the northern Jersey shore (Exit 98 on the Parkway – haha).

Lately, I have been thinking about and observing just how much of my home state’s ethos has crept into, and one might say, taken over the way I ‘act.’ While certainly, my family upbringing and how I was raised are sort of paramount in shaping me, that all happens within the larger context of ‘place.’

First, let me start out by saying that being from New Jersey, in my lifetime and memory, in the 60’, 70’s and some of the 80’s was never cool. While I may have been proud of being from the Garden State, the way NJ was perceived in the broader culture was far from being a ‘garden state.’ If anything, we were looked at as the backwater/armpit of America. Gritty oil refineries, parkways, and turnpikes: densely populated and filled with rough-and-tumble people.

Then, as our hometown hero stated and led the charge … ”we started to go from Jerser’kistan to Jersey-proud.” Bruce (you all know his last name), the Giants, the Sopranos… and a growing pride in some of our additionally famous alumni (Sinatra, Streep, Edison, etc.) began to transform New Jersey into a place that garnered more respect.

The world tried to drag us backward with the Jersey Shore and Real Housewives of NJ television fiascos… but most of us did not allow it to. While we have to ‘cop’ to that element existing and, in a sense, being entertaining … it does not represent us!

I focus on the phrase company culture because I truly observe it comes from ‘place,’ especially if you are proud to be from that place. I have been fortunate in business. From having a meaningful role and generous mentors in large companies to starting and running entrepreneurial ventures, they almost all had roots in New Jersey and cultural touchstones born and nurtured by our great state.

Here are a few of those cultural elements that I knowingly or instinctively have been infused with:

1. Perseverance

Somehow, we New Jersey’ians are just not afraid of setbacks and the hard work it takes to recover from setbacks. We are also not afraid to keep our shoulder to the wheel and grind things out. I feel it comes from the sort of feeling that – ‘look to your left and to your right – everyone is grinding.’

2. Grit

This quality has gained a lot of notoriety nowadays, especially in the entrepreneurial world. Another way to look at grit is to realize it involves NO-complaining. Save the complaining for your private world, but don’t dare utter it at work or too often. You can knock us down, but we will get up.

3. Kindness, but Iron Underneath

I remember seeing a quote about New Yorkers that went something like, “We are a very kind people, but mess with us and scratch just a little below the surface, and you will find fury’. I think we Jersey’ians are similar. We are kind, supportive, helpful, and mostly courteous … but mess with us in the wrong way, and we will turn on you quickly. Maybe it’s kindness on the outside with little tolerance on the inside?

4. Keep Your Promise

If you say you are going to do something, that’s the end of that – you do it. No excuses, no being late, and no under-delivering. If you do not deliver, you will more than likely be done at some point in the very near future.

5. Striving and Climbing

We are a very competitive people, and we will work harder than most people and work to have a very productive work and personal life. Just drive around north Jersey during the work week – people are at it. We won’t lie and cheat to get where we want. We will just outwork you and stay at it until we get there.

I could go on and on, as my pride in place is high, but the summary for me is that I have observed that your company culture if you are a leader in the business, will more than likely reflect the ‘place’ you are from.

And for me, that’s New Jersey.

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