Fostering a company culture

Cornerstone hired an official culture developer to maintain and strengthen its work environment.

August 11, 2011
Lindsey Getz

Culture can make or break a business, yet it’s something that isn’t always given the attention it deserves. That’s not the case at Cornerstone Solutions Group, where company culture has always been considered in the highest regard. In fact, the company recently hired a “culture developer” whose job focuses on fostering the best working environment possible. That focus has paid off with happy employees – which equates to happy clientele.

“Although it’s my name on the website as the official culture developer, all of our company leaders are culture developers,” says Julie Faulkner, who was hired for the position nearly two years ago. “And our team members are culture protectors because they value the environment we’ve created. We work really hard at creating a place where people want to work – a place where employees are happy.”

It all began when Julie’s husband (Cornerstone Solutions Group Founder John Faulkner) started handing down some of his business books for her to read. “John’s a business book junkie – he reads all of them,” says Faulkner. “He’d read a lot about leadership processes and techniques and passed them on to me. It became clear how important it is to give our leaders the tools they need to strengthen the business. That’s where the whole idea stemmed from.”

Some of the tools that Cornerstone now offers its nearly 300 employees through Faulkner’s culture development position include personality testing, leadership classes and a new employee review system. Faulkner believes that the company’s emphasis on culture couldn’t have come at a better time. The company has remained strong despite the downturn of the economy and Faulkner believes their focus on core values has had a major impact

“We were a $25 million new construction-driven company and now we’re a $25 million reoccurring revenue-driven company,” she says. “Culture has allowed our people to bend and twist through some of these major changes and tough times. We’ve been able to reinvent ourselves and shift our focus but because our core values remained the same and our culture was strong, the change was a much smoother process.”

Peter Klinkenberg, Cornerstone’s director of business development, says that the company’s positive focus on culture is something that sets them apart. “I’ve worked at a bunch of places over the years and seen the inside of many construction businesses and many of them use a culture of fear to drive business,” he says. “It’s that idea that if things don’t go the way they were expected that there are consequences. We hold each other accountable, but instead of operating out of fear, it’s a culture of teamwork and understanding. Not a lot of companies have that mentality of working together. It’s often competitive and there’s friction between the divisions. That’s not the case here at all.”

Faulkner says that the value her husband places on a positive working culture stems from his own personal beliefs. The name of the company – Cornerstone – is religious, denoting that Christ is the cornerstone.

“There was a time in life, early on, when John’s business was just about making some money,” Faulkner remembers. “He called it the ‘grab and stack’ stage of life. He needed money to get a house, a car and other things he wanted. But he came to the point where he realized that’s not what he truly wanted out of his business. He wanted a business that produced good people – not things. He wanted to produce happy people who knew how to do good business that not only benefited us and the clients, but the whole community. That’s when things started changing. That emphasis on fostering a good working environment has continued to be our focus and is why culture development is so important.”