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How to tend to company culture like a garden

Written on Nov 10, 2022

By Jessica Salerno-Shumaker, OSCPA senior content manager  

Building a successful culture is like caring for a garden, says one CPA.  

“Culture is the opportunity to create space for people to grow and develop the gifts that they have in the best interest of the organization,” said Jim Laudato, CPA. “It’s a deliberate and intentional space to allow people to use their respective talents to produce.”  

Laudato will present his session “Harnessing the Power of TEAMWORK at the Human Level” at the Dec. 8 Winter CPE Conference. He said, “some people might produce corn, some tomatoes,” and what someone produces is heavily dependent on how they’re treated and the environment they’re in.  

“If you throw seeds on the floor, they're not going to grow,” he said. “There are a lot of things that could go wrong if we don't provide the right environment for people to grow. Culture needs to be more intentional for people to stick around.”  

Culture is where the intangible parts of business start to develop, Laudato said, which can often go overlooked since it’s not something you can necessarily look at on a budget sheet. But investing in culture translates to invaluable skills, such as being nimble and sustainable, that are key to the business's long-term success.   

Communication is an essential element of a thriving culture, Laudate said, but is often not given as much attention as it deserves. Communication is like water to a garden; it needs water to continue to grow. 

“Effective communication happens when we are prepared to speak and prepared to listen,” he said. “And we're also prepared to understand people's communication styles.”  

Taking personality assessments such as DiSC can clarify different communication styles within a team, Laudato said. It also helps colleagues understand differing priorities and how those all work together to achieve organizational goals.     

These personality assessments can also help with awareness, he said, both of understanding yourself and others more clearly.  

“As CPAs, we often work with the smart side of the business, which is financials, marketing, technology and strategy,” he said. “And we overlook the healthy side of the organization, which is effective communication and growing people. Culture comes first, and then things produce. We can’t expect things to be produced without good soil.”