The Seven Elements of a Successful Corporate Ethos


It’s a word I’ve been thinking about a lot lately as we prepare to launch our new company. And I guess that shouldn’t be too surprising. After all, it’s one of the most important factors behind any company’s success. Over my career, I’ve had the opportunity to see its effect on multiple organizations. Both for good and for bad. There’s a power in ethos. And I want to make sure it’s the wind in our sails; not a headwind that hampers our progress.

But what does the “right” ethos look like for a company? Is there a single way that all successful companies follow?

Here are seven things that stand out about the ethos at Ellis Nichol that may work for your company.

1) Assemble the right people

People need to fit together in order to accomplish whatever definition of success they have. For some organizations, a diverse group may lead to success. For others, a homogeneous group may be key. It depends on the situation, timeline and the path ahead. But the best groups do have some commonalities. Complementary skill sets. A unified vision. And a sense of cohesion that enables them to work together through both good and bad times. Whether its management, employees, partners or vendors, a commitment to assembling the right people is key to success.

2) Build an atmosphere of trust

Trust makes any working environment enjoyable. But more than that, it enables a degree of speed and execution that isn’t possible in environments where trust is lacking. Commit to building trust amongst management, employees, partners and vendors. Show support for their core needs and values. And watch execution exceed your expectations.

3) Aspire to excellence

There’s profit in excellence. But more than that, there is an undeniable joy that comes from a job well done. Excellence in execution not only makes your customers happy, it provides a company the energy for whatever comes next. Enable an environment that fosters the creativity to solve problems and continually improve. And it will create a virtuous cycle that keeps rewarding everyone involved.

4) Know your value: say no often

The secret of success can be simplified down to one thing: adding value. Don’t be afraid to say no to situations where you don’t contribute. When you focus on how and where you add value, you not only maximize your joy and revenue, you minimize your stress.

5) Stay authentic: lead by serving

The journey of success can sometimes lead organizations and individuals to change for the negative. Be humble and understand that sustainable leadership comes by serving others’ needs. Be clear on who you are leading/serving. Customers. Partners. Employees. Understand their needs. And help them solve their problems.

6) Flexible Sisu

Another way of saying this is “adaptable persistence”. Know that things are going to change. They always do. Be flexible enough to change when needed, but brave enough to work through any challenges that get in the way of success. Never be afraid to move forward. And always remember your roots. After all, they are what give you strength. (It’s why I use the Finnish word “sisu” instead of persistence. Your personal wording may vary.)

7) Give Back

We’re all part of this same, funny world. When we make it a better place by sustainably contributing what we can to others in need, we inevitably end up getting back more in return. Never make the mistake that freeloading or taking advantage of others is a path to success. It’s only a short term solution that breeds the bad habits leading to failure.