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Business Strategy Is Your Company Pigeon-Holed?

One enjoyable autumn day around lunchtime, my wife and I were walking through a piazza in Florence, Italy. We came upon a sight that was a first for me: pigeons resting in the grass. I had never seen so many pigeons resting at the same time. I was so used to calling them Venetian Rats. If you have ever been to Venice, then you know what I mean. They are a constant bother in their unending search for food, scurrying around with hyper energy. Yet here were these Florentine pigeons, not moving at all and just resting in the grass. I could hardly believe my eyes.

I started thinking about the situation, and it began to make sense to me. In most Mediterranean countries, many of the shops shut down at lunchtime. Workers go for their two-to-three hour lunch break, and reopen around 3pm or later. They remain open until the evening. This long lunch hour is a tradition in the Mediterranean. 

Since there were hardly any people around to feed them, I guess the pigeons were doing the same as the people. They were resting until people came back, and food was available again. The pigeons had ‘gone Italian’ in their habits. It was remarkable to see and I don’t know if I will ever see it again, but I will certainly start looking and being aware of it.

Then I started thinking about some of the companies I have encountered during my life. I thought about many of the problems these companies had. I slowly began to realize that the workers in these troubled organizations were behaving like the Italian pigeons. The workers were a reflection of the corporate culture they existed within. If a company’s culture or management is quite negative, then the people working there will be too. If a company makes profits more important than customers, then the workers also reflect this attitude. The same goes for work ethic and responsibility; if the company’s management does not embody these traits, workers won’t either.

On the other hand, there are many companies out there that have a very positive corporate culture. You can see this easily in the businesses you encounter by the quality of service you receive, the fact that the employee you are dealing with genuinely cares about your issue, or simply how coordinated and friendly the staff are when dealing with customers. These companies reflect their positive nature to both their own employees, and to their customers. The difference between a positive company and a negative company is extremely noticeable.

Customers want to do business with positive companies and want to avoid negative companies. The reason for this is clear: their experience is much better with the positive ones. The same goes for workers; who wouldn’t want to work in a positive corporate environment? I find myself going out of my way to deal with positive companies, and going to extremes to avoid negative ones. I’m sure I’m not the only one. 

These pigeons reminded me that companies really need to address their culture and ensure it’s a positive one. If they currently have a negative culture, they need to work on creating a positive one. If companies do nothing to correct a poor culture, it will adversely impact their business. Positive companies are always more successful in the long run, so thinking about your corporate culture should definitely be on your mind as a business owner.

I thought about all of this while watching these peaceful pigeons. I guess that proves I can’t leave my work at work, even halfway across the world. Oh, the pigeons are getting active now, lunchtime in Italy must be over. Back to work!