Treetree group account director recognizes company culture isn't just about a great break room.

By Rachel Hillman, group account director at treetree

Over the past decade, "workplace culture" has become a key component in the conversation surrounding building successful, thriving businesses. And while we tend to think about workplace culture in the context of creating an environment where people love to work, a good company culture is about more than vacation time and break room perks. It can be just as much a business development strategy, providing guideposts to finding the right clients and doing the kind of work that supports the company's core values.

Live and breathe your culture

It is key to establish and protect a company culture that represents who you are and who you want to work with. Culture isn't something you just talk about; it should be something you live. Let it set the tone for every interaction you have - from chatting with the UPS guy to navigating the waters of resume rejection - extend the same courtesy, kindness and ego-free attitude to everyone. That steadfast company culture plays a huge role in helping companies develop trusting, honest, long-lasting relationships with their clients.

Lay it all on the table

Universal truth: clients want to work with nice people. Be open and honest in your initial conversations. Talk about your culture and make sure you're both on the same page. Never underestimate the value of first meetings. Those first hours together are an invaluable opportunity for both sides to feel out the chemistry. Come to the table as a partner, and highlight your strengths and what you provide. Furthermore rather than sitting across from your client, sit next to them. You're not there to talk at them, but with them. If you want to be treated as a partner, these small gestures make it clear that you're invested in their success.

Stick to it, even if it means turning down business

That need for the right partnership fit goes both ways. Not every new client or partnership is going to be a good fit. In order to protect your culture - and your employees - it's up to you to know when to say yes and when to say no. There may be times you have to walk away from business when you need it, simply because the fit doesn't feel right. While that can be difficult, it's even more shortsighted to hop into a relationship when things don't feel good to anyone in the room. Other times, you may have to decline work because you don't feel you're right for the project. When you're faced with that situation, it is best to be very up front about why. Focusing on what is right for the client, as well as what is right for your culture and your team, will make everyone happy.

Readjust if needed

Of course, nothing is ever perfect. Don't be afraid to backtrack if you feel you're headed down a path that isn't working. Don't continue forging onward in the wrong direction just because you're already there. As a business leader, you have to show some vulnerability. You have to be able to show your team, clients and partners that you are willing to bend, sweat, listen and be open to new things. But amidst all that change hold steadfast the basic tenants of your culture.

A company that has a truly strong culture applies it to both its employees and its business development strategy. If you start following that rule, you'll notice a positive change in your company.

Rachel Hillman is group account director at treetree, a marketing and communications agency that develops insightful advertising strategy and bold creative for special projects. She is responsible for keeping the account service team happy, sharp, creative and proactive by using her 15+ years of industry experience.