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The Power of Company Culture: A Glimpse Inside One Bank's Success Story

September 11, 2023

By: Keather Snyder

In the hustle and bustle of running a company, it's easy to get caught up in the day-to-day operations and lose sight of something that might seem intangible but holds immense power: your company culture. You might think culture is just a buzzword or something that only big corporations or the HR Department worries about. In reality, it's a driving force that can make or break your business, no matter its size.

Simply put, culture is the shared values, beliefs, attitudes, and behaviors that define how things get done within your organization.

Here's are 7 reasons why paying attention to company culture matters:

1. Employee Engagement and Retention

A strong culture keeps your employees engaged and motivated. When your team resonates with the values and mission of the company, they're more likely to give their best effort, leading to higher productivity and job satisfaction. Moreover, a positive culture reduces turnover as employees feel a sense of belonging and are less likely to jump ship.

2. Attracting the Right Talent

In a competitive job market, top talent is looking for more than just a paycheck. They want to be part of something meaningful. A compelling company culture acts like a magnet, drawing in candidates who align with your values and vision.

3. Innovation and Adaptability

A culture that encourages open communication and diverse perspectives fosters innovation. When employees feel comfortable sharing ideas and experimenting without fear of judgment, your business becomes more adaptable to changes in the market and can stay ahead of the curve.

4. Customer Experience

Your company culture often seeps into your products and services. A team that believes in exceptional customer service will naturally deliver it. Happy employees tend to create happy customers, leading to increased loyalty and positive word-of-mouth.

5. Consistent Decision-Making

When your culture is well-defined, it becomes a guiding principle for decision-making at all levels. This consistency helps streamline operations and ensures that everyone is on the same page when it comes to the company's priorities.

6. Resilience in Tough Times

Every business faces challenges, whether it's economic downturns, industry disruptions, or internal issues. A strong culture acts as a stabilizing force during these times, rallying the team together and providing a sense of purpose.

7. Long-Term Vision

Cultivating a culture isn't a short-term fix; it's an investment in the long-term success of your business. A robust culture aligns everyone towards a common goal and provides a framework for sustained growth.

Building a strong company culture takes commitment and time. In this week’s blog, we are happy to share an example from Wendy Wynn, Culture Experience Officer at First Federal Bank. Wendy and a team of people at the bank have been committed to building First Federal’s culture over time and involving everyone in the business. Here’s First Federal’s journey that Wendy shared with us in her own words.


Culture is the reason that First Federal Bank (FFB) has been around for 61 years! It’s the little things that make our culture stand out and make us who we are.

The Culture Program at FFB was established in 2013 under the leadership of our then President and CEO, Keith Leibfried. Keith had a vision that every employee would be connected to our culture — knowing, living, and owning it every day. Keith shared that vision with Stephanie McClendon who also had a passion for culture.

Stephanie became FFB’s “Culture Queen.” Culture Ambassadors were elected to serve in our branches and departments throughout the bank to promote our culture to their coworkers. In 2014, I was asked to join the program as a branch ambassador. To say I fell in love with the program is an understatement. In 2015, I became Assistant CA to support Stephanie and the CA initiatives.

In 2019, I was honored to become the first Culture Experience Officer for FFB. Eager to learn all that I could and to share that knowledge with others, I began researching and reading all things culture related. I quickly learned that there was no “set in stone” definition. Culture can be hard to define. We’ve all heard these…

  • DNA
  • Lifeblood
  • Oxygen
  • North Star
  • Invisible Glue
  • Secret Sauce

2019 was dedicated to continuing to build on the foundation that was established by Stephanie McClendon and the Culture Ambassadors. I created New Employee Culture Training for our new hires. Stephanie shared her long-held vision with me for a Culture Guide that would house our culture concentrations, principles, and core values — a guide that would be shared with every employee to proudly display on their desks and at their workstations.

In December of 2019, along with Keith Leibfried, Stephanie and I had the privilege of rolling out our first culture guide to our employees. It was a proud moment indeed!

2020 held high hopes! I was entering my second year in my dream job as Culture Experience Officer, and it was shaping up to be a year of opportunities. And then March blew in like a lion!

Perhaps nothing has stopped us in our tracks like March 2020 and the C word. For me, the C word at work was the massive Change (with a capital C) that was about to occur. And then, to compound the Change, was the word that was heard around the world, “Covid.”

Every day it seemed we were faced with new detours. I was adapting to a new leadership style, added responsibilities, and working from home. Not only were employees working remotely, many were now also teachers, daycare workers, care givers, and lunchroom staff to their families who were also home.

One morning I felt compelled to check on one of our employees, a single mom with an elementary school aged child. When I asked how she was doing, she admitted she was a bit overwhelmed with working and the added responsibilities of overseeing her child’s education, meals, after-school care, etc. This was just one of many who were experiencing the additional duties put upon us by Covid. The importance of our culture was driven home to me that day by that five minute phone conversation.

To me, culture is about connection. Whether it’s with the coworker in the cubicle next to you or a remote team member reporting from home, connection is critical to culture. It was brought into the light even more by Covid.

Culture did not stop because of Covid! Culture is not a switch we turn on when we walk into the office in the morning and off when we leave at the end of the day. Culture is who we are. You won’t find our principles, core values, and culture concentrations ornately framed and displayed in our buildings. Our beliefs and behaviors are framed by the interactions and attitudes of our employees toward fellow employees and customers. We know, own, and live our culture every day.

Our once in-person morning meetings, “Showtime”, entered the virtual world for the numerous employees who were now working from home, many for the first time in their careers. It was critical that our employees felt connected.

My team had daily morning calls to check in and check up on each other. There was one rule: Nothing work related was discussed. I soon discovered that not only was culture about connection, it was also about caring.

I began writing a weekly Culture Cares email to provide a smile or laughter and offer encouragement. I write from the heart and share personal life experiences from my children to my fur babies. I’m always amazed at how a simple story can touch someone. Almost every Friday I receive a “Thank you, I needed this today” or similar response.

We established culture committees within the CA program. Each CA serves on at least one of the committees. To be honest, this was a bit of a struggle for me because I believed I had to do it all. Today, I am thankful for the gift of delegation, freeing me to devote time to more pressing initiatives and, at the same time, allowing culture ambassadors to explore and embrace opportunities to shine.

A connected and caring culture results in a thriving work environment where employees are engaged and there is a sense of belonging, knowing that our contributions make a difference and benefit not only our immediate teams but the organization as a whole. A connected and caring culture values people, seeing and knowing them for who they are and valuing them as individuals.

First Federal Bank has proven again and again that culture matters and it makes a difference. Our 2021 and 2022 annual surveys included the question, “What do you like best about being a part of FFB?” The number one answer — culture. And Newsweek Magazine has named First Federal Bank as the Best Small Bank in Florida for three consecutive years. We’ve also been recognized as Best of the Best places to work, Best of the Best banks, and Business of the Year.


In closing, Wendy shared her biggest lessons learned:

  1. It’s okay to delegate, allowing others to enjoy the reward.
  2. The soft skills are really the hard skills!
  3. Never give up! Failing is part of learning. The difference in leadership and caring leadership is 18 inches (head to heart).

Remember, your company culture isn't something that happens by accident. It's a conscious effort that requires consistent communication, leading by example, and a commitment to fostering an environment where values aren't just written on the walls but are lived and breathed by every member of the team. As a business leader, you have the unique advantage of shaping your culture from the ground up. So, seize this opportunity, and watch how a strong culture propels your business to new heights. Thank you, Wendy, for sharing your experience with us.


About Wendy Wynn, Culture Experience Officer at First Federal Bank

Wendy leads the Bank’s 37 culture ambassadors throughout Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, and Kansas and oversees the committees within the culture program. She provides culture and customer service training for local businesses and is instrumental in assisting them with defining and designing their unique culture. She has presented culture for BankersHub, Training Industry and HRO Today and is an accomplished writer and motivational speaker.


DOWNLOAD FREE eBOOK! Cultivating Excellence: The Blueprint for a Successful Company Culture
Your guide to understanding company culture and revitalizing it when needed.

Keather Snyder

Keather Snyder is President & Chief Operating Officer of The Omnia Group, a leader in helping organizations optimize their talent selection, development and company culture. She is dedicated to helping organizations drive results through the power of their people. Keather is also hugely passionate about developing our future generation of leaders and dedicates personal time to mentoring college age and early career professionals.

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