[Editor’s Note: Dean Debnam is CEO of North Carolina’s Workplace Options, a provider of work-life programs and employee benefits that serves 32 million employees in 170 countries. The state votes May 8 on a gay marriage referendum.]
COMMENTARY | A company is what it does.
I’ve been lucky enough to start, grow and lead several businesses in several different industries. I can say from experience that companies are defined by what they do much more than what they sell.
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It’s about culture. And based on a career’s worth of experience, it’s clear to me that culture is the defining characteristic of any organization.
A company’s culture is based on values. Without action, those values are nothing more than words on paper.
I’ve always been of the opinion that businesses affect communities in more ways than economics. Businesses that are active and have a strong voice carry a lot of weight.
Some executives and business leaders tend to shy away from community or political issues that don’t directly affect their bottom lines. I tend to take the opposite approach. My companies are not afraid to support causes we consider to be just. And we have no problem standing up for what we believe in.
It’s good for morale. It commands respect. And it defines who we are.
Right now, Workplace Options is taking a visible stand in a polarizing political fight. Our home state will be voting on a Defense of Marriage Amendment in its upcoming primary elections.
Our company’s leadership opposes this legislation — and we’re letting it be known. We held a public event at our global headquarters to support The Vote Against Project, an active group that shares this opinion.
Nobody at our organization is running for office. We aren’t looking to gain favorable public opinion. We are simply standing up for what we believe is right.
We want our employees, our clients and our community to know what kind of company we are. Being active and involved is a great way for us to demonstrate what we stand for and what we think. It reinforces our culture and backs up the foundational values we say we’re built on.
As a company, you are what you do. Every day, we ask our employees to stand up and speak out if they see something that’s wrong, or feel that a co-worker or client is being treated unfairly.
So when it comes to issues that affect our community, why would we even consider doing anything else?