Entrepreneur Fielkow urges fellow business leaders to harness the ultimate competitive weapon: company culture.
For Fielkow, building a company culture isn’t a touchy-feely exercise but a “hardcore business proposition.” A lawyer-turned–corporate executive, Fielkow bought the trucking firm Jetco Delivery in 2006 and set out to transform it into a world-class company. In his view, Jetco’s competitive advantage isn’t superior technology or having more trucks on the road. What sets Jetco apart is a culture based on well-defined values, employee empowerment and a commitment to excellence. “An excellent culture occurs when people and process are in harmony with the company’s vision and values,” he writes. Fielkow argues that too many leaders think culture is an undefinable entity or, worse, a waste of time. In fact, he says, culture is a “strategic choice” that yields a measurable return on investment. To make his case, Fielkow shares his successes and failures in establishing Jetco’s culture, cleverly summarized by the mantra “Driving to Perfection.” Written in a succinct, amiable style, the book is a treasure trove of ideas on how to build a culture without spending a lot of money. Far from the superficial notions of culture often found in company brochures, Fielkow advances a sophisticated view of culture that permeates every aspect of business, from employee compensation to mergers and acquisitions. He spotlights a broad range of topics—leadership, communication, hiring, teamwork, accountability, etc.—and challenges many conventional business practices. For example, Jetco chooses to focus on its employees rather than blindly following a “customer-first at any price” policy. Jetco’s culture ensures workers are well-trained and empowered to take care of customers, which keeps them coming back with repeat business. Fielkow makes clear his distaste for lengthy employee handbooks, so he keeps his chapters brief and equipped with easy-to-skim lists. While culture-building may be inexpensive, Fielkow doesn’t promise quick fixes. Developing a vibrant culture demands effort, and once achieved, it must be relentlessly guarded against complacency.
A smart, comprehensive guidebook steeped in the rough-and-tumble realities of business.