Recently, I participated in a forum with other business owners offering “wisdom from the trenches” to a group of aspiring entrepreneurs. One of the questions posed to the panel was something to the effect of, “what should business leaders focus their attention on?” A string of cliches followed–“Protect your Margins,” “Prioritize the Customer Experience,” or one that almost made me spit out my water, “Listen to the Market…she speaks!” Cue the eye roll.

Just a few weekends ago on a father/son camping trip with a group of buddies, most of whom are running businesses, a similar topic came up. One of the guys in the group lamented that he can’t figure out where to focus his energy on the business. He had a long list of issues that needed to be addressed or overhauled, projects that needed to be completed or started, and people challenges coming out of his ears. Another had similar issues, from cash flow to HR, and was frustrated that a new platform they had implemented wasn’t producing the traction he had hoped.

My response to these guys and my answer to the question at the forum were largely the same.

by Trevor Lee

One of the hardest things I’ve done in my professional life is lead an organization through closing. There were a variety of factors that contributed to the decision–scarce resources, leadership burnout, internal dynamics, and more. Looking back, I know we made the right decision, but one of the hardest things to come to terms with is that it might not have had to be that way. Of course, I’ll never know for sure, but I do know it wasn’t until we moved toward closing that the full picture of both the healthy aspects and unhealthy aspects of our organization became more clear. By that time it was far too late to try and do anything about them.

Whatever the outcome for the organization, I know for sure we would have profoundly benefitted from a third-party culture assessment years before we closed. Here are three reasons why a culture assessment is so important.