Companies that value culture as much as profit motive will always grow both in tandem

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The conference room at the end of our hall here in the FPG office has five words in large block letters across the top of the wall opposite the entry door. They stand out in our FPG purple on a yellow background and greet every person who walks into the room.

Accountability. Trust. Dialogue. Excellence. Drive. All five of the FPG Values.

Everything we do at FPG, from interacting with clients to our internal interactions with our teammates, flows out of these values in some way. We firmly believe any successful company needs to have all five in their scope in order to truly foster the sort of company that grows fast and from within. If you can live the values you teach on a daily basis, clients and potential clients alike will see that positive growth-minded culture and will be drawn to you like a magnet.

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I was reminded of this when Uber, the global ride-sharing company, was dealt another blow on Friday when the city of London decided to not renew Uber’s license to operate within the city. So if you live in or travel to London in the future, don’t expect to catch an Uber to your destination.

It’s been a tough year for Uber, which was once the toast of the startup town but now is dealing with both internal and external shocks. Since the start of 2017, at least 15 top executives have fled the company despite its net worth eclipsing $70 billion this year, including founding CEO Travis Kalanick. A series of public relations setbacks and a culture of instability led Uber to install a vice president of leadership this summer.

As seen through the prism of our five core values, here’s where Uber got off course in London, and how companies that value profit motive over culture can always change course and turn the tide in their favor.


What Uber did: Encouraged an executive culture that passed the buck on to the next man instead of owning their warts and taking steps to change. One of London’s reasons behind sweeping Uber from their streets was their “lack of corporate responsibility” in failing to report crimes by their drivers, among other accountability concerns. And that all starts at the top.

What FPG teaches: You are 100% personally responsible for everything you do, and once we stop backbiting and admitting that positive culture starts with our own accountability, things around us improve. I recommend you read Extreme Ownership by retired Navy SEALs Jocko Willink and Leif Babin. In recounting stories about how leadership inspires us, they note how it can also encourage us to blame others and have an “I” instead of “we” mindset.


What Uber did: Eroded trust with the city of London and its customers by not acting as honestly as possible in the public eye in the city’s view. Uber had the chance to wipe the slate clean with the city of London and use the opportunity to accept their decision and vow to clean up. Instead, it promised a legal battle and noted its disappointment in a statement. And according to the New York Times, Uber’s used a controversial software program in ways that might deceive the public.

What FPG teaches: The key to establishing trust is being openly apolitical in your dealings with others and having a transparent, easy-to-understand agenda. When trust breaks down, what we’re really saying is that we don’t have faith in the agendas of our teammates. Consider these numberstaken from people in high-trust work atmospheres: 74% less stress, 106% more energy at work, 50% higher productivity. Trust is fundamental, and it all starts with leadership.


What Uber did: Simply put, the dialogue between Uber and the city of London broke down. London wanted certain performance thresholds met, and Uber didn’t have a dialogue with the city on more than a half dozen occasions when it was told about the criminal activity of its drivers. Uber didn’t see that as its job, while London did.

What FPG teaches: We define dialogue as creating a new, shared understanding that promotes not just growth, but individual and organizational growth specifically. Companies need to have an open chain of dialogue all the way up the ladder, not only within the organization but with the public and clients as well, and even the highest execs in the C-Suite shouldn’t be immune. We should always seek contrarian viewpoints to shift our field of vision and be open to constructive criticism that moves us forward.


What Uber did: While Uber’s reputation for excellence is without doubt, the gaps in the reputation and the reality showed in London on several occasions. Uber’s always looked for opportunities for growth and improvement, but lax handling of some of its own internal problems overshadowed its excellence in the eyes of London city officials. Your culture can absolutely effect your bottom line.

What FPG teaches: Brene Brown, a Houston University researcher and wildly popular speaker, preframes the discussion like this: “Want to be happy? Stop trying to be perfect.” The distinction between excellence and perfection is that excellence allows us to make mistakes and still reach the pinnacle. Perfection is unattainable and only opens the door for us to beat ourselves down over our inevitable mistakes. It’s just not feasible to expect ourselves to be perfect, but we do have to reach for our very best each and every day while accepting variables that arise.


What Uber did: The company let its drive to be the best, most personable ride-sharing company slip in search of convenience and profit. Uber is still a world-changing company with potential to continue shaping our future, but its drive – the unyielding pursuit of its goals – was put on the backburner because the culture wasn’t keeping pace.

What FPG teaches: Drive is our “theme value” for this quarter at FPG, and for good reason. The fifth of the six behaviors observed from drive is creatively turning problems into opportunities, and that’s an area where Uber will have a chance to bounce back in the coming years. We believe every challenge can become an opportunity given the right mindset, and Uber will have plenty of opportunities.

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