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Una definición informal de Cultura de Empresa podría ser “lo que hacemos cuando nuestro jefe no nos ve”

Una definición formal de “Cultura de Empresa” (u organizacional, corporativa…) podría ser la expresión que acopla el concepto de cultura (entendido como el conjunto de creencias, valores, costumbres y actuaciones que caracterizan a un grupo humano) al ámbito de una empresa o negocio (u organización, corporación…). Una definición informal podría ser “lo que hacemos cuando nuestro jefe no nos ve”.

¿Y por qué es importante la Cultura de Empresa para nuestro negocio? Pues porque es la pauta de cómo nos comportamos con nuestros clientes, socios, empleados, accionistas, proveedores… Da igual lo bien que hagamos nuestras presentaciones de ventas, sesiones de equipo o nuestros informes corporativos: en el largo plazo, ineludiblemente seremos valorados por nuestra cultura, es decir, por cómo actuamos y no por cómo decimos que actuamos. O como decía Abraham Lincoln “no se puede engañar a todo el mundo todo el tiempo”.

Los componentes básicos de la Cultura de nuestra organización son nuestra misión, nuestros principios y nuestros valores, que de forma muy resumida son cuáles son los objetivos de orden superior que persigue nuestra organización, cómo actuamos para conseguirlos y cómo aplicamos las prioridades cuando existe conflicto de intereses.

Debemos de ser muy conscientes de que los negocios ocurren porque hay confianza entre las partes: de los clientes con nuestros productos y equipo humano, de nuestros accionistas con nosotros, entre empresa y trabajadores, entre nuestra empresa y nuestros proveedores… Lógicamente, debemos de trabajar para que los compromisos alcanzados queden reflejados formalmente de la manera más clara, detallada y objetiva posible en forma de contratos, pedidos, etc. Pero no nos engañemos: es imposible reflejar en un papel, procedimiento, normativa… todas las posibles circunstancias que la vida puede deparar, y ahí es donde entrará en juego nuestra cultura. Seguramente no firmaríamos un contrato, por muy minucioso que éste fuera, con alguien que esperamos nos vaya a engañar. De nada nos sirve aplicar penalizaciones a un proveedor que nos ha fallado si hemos perdido a ese cliente para siempre (y las referencias que éste va a dar de nosotros…). Es más, en la mayoría de las ocasiones, no incumplimos estrictamente la literalidad de lo pactado: p.e. simplemente aconsejamos sesgadamente a un cliente para sacarle en ese momento un mayor ingreso (olvidándonos del valor de todo el ciclo de vida de ese mismo cliente, o de las prescripciones que éste pueda hacer en su entorno). Consciente o inconscientemente, cambiamos el valor del cliente por obtener un ingreso inmediato. (Cuando este comportamiento es consciente, y en su forma extrema, constituye la cultura del “pelotazo y desaparece”, un mal bastante endémico en muchos negocios actuales).

Decía Greg Smith en su carta de dimisión como Director Ejecutivo y Responsable del Mercado de Derivados en EMEA de Goldman Sachs, publicada en el New York Times el 14.mar.12:

«La cultura era el ingrediente secreto que hacía que este lugar [Goldman Sachs] fuera fantástico y nos permitió ganarnos la confianza de nuestros clientes durante 143 años. No se trataba sólo de ganar dinero; esto no hace que una empresa dure tantos años. … Creo sinceramente que este declive de la moral de la compañía representa la amenaza más grave a su supervivencia a largo plazo.

Me deja estupefacto que la alta dirección no entienda una verdad básica: si los clientes no confían en ti al final dejarán de hacer negocios contigo. No importa lo listo que seas.

Hagan que el cliente vuelva a ser el foco central del negocio. Sin clientes no ganarán dinero. De hecho, ni siquiera existirán. Desháganse de las personas que están en bancarrota moral, sin importar cuánto dinero ganan para la compañía.»

Aunque nuestro tamaño y negocio no puedan compararse con Goldman Sachs, no deberíamos de pasar por alto el consejo Greg Smith.

Why I Am Leaving Goldman Sachs

by Greg Smith, march 14, 2012
New York Times Opinion Pages

TODAY is my last day at Goldman Sachs. After almost 12 years at the firm — first as a summer intern while at Stanford, then in New York for 10 years, and now in London — I believe I have worked here long enough to understand the trajectory of its culture, its people and its identity. And I can honestly say that the environment now is as toxic and destructive as I have ever seen it.

To put the problem in the simplest terms, the interests of the client continue to be sidelined in the way the firm operates and thinks about making money. Goldman Sachs is one of the world’s largest and most important investment banks and it is too integral to global finance to continue to act this way. The firm has veered so far from the place I joined right out of college that I can no longer in good conscience say that I identify with what it stands for.

It might sound surprising to a skeptical public, but culture was always a vital part of Goldman Sachs’s success. It revolved around teamwork, integrity, a spirit of humility, and always doing right by our clients. The culture was the secret sauce that made this place great and allowed us to earn our clients’ trust for 143 years. It wasn’t just about making money; this alone will not sustain a firm for so long. It had something to do with pride and belief in the organization. I am sad to say that I look around today and see virtually no trace of the culture that made me love working for this firm for many years. I no longer have the pride, or the belief.

But this was not always the case. For more than a decade I recruited and mentored candidates through our grueling interview process. I was selected as one of 10 people (out of a firm of more than 30,000) to appear on our recruiting video, which is played on every college campus we visit around the world. In 2006 I managed the summer intern program in sales and trading in New York for the 80 college students who made the cut, out of the thousands who applied.

I knew it was time to leave when I realized I could no longer look students in the eye and tell them what a great place this was to work.

When the history books are written about Goldman Sachs, they may reflect that the current chief executive officer, Lloyd C. Blankfein, and the president, Gary D. Cohn, lost hold of the firm’s culture on their watch. I truly believe that this decline in the firm’s moral fiber represents the single most serious threat to its long-run survival.

Over the course of my career I have had the privilege of advising two of the largest hedge funds on the planet, five of the largest asset managers in the United States, and three of the most prominent sovereign wealth funds in the Middle East and Asia. My clients have a total asset base of more than a trillion dollars. I have always taken a lot of pride in advising my clients to do what I believe is right for them, even if it means less money for the firm. This view is becoming increasingly unpopular at Goldman Sachs. Another sign that it was time to leave.

How did we get here? The firm changed the way it thought about leadership. Leadership used to be about ideas, setting an example and doing the right thing. Today, if you make enough money for the firm (and are not currently an ax murderer) you will be promoted into a position of influence.

What are three quick ways to become a leader? a) Execute on the firm’s “axes,” which is Goldman-speak for persuading your clients to invest in the stocks or other products that we are trying to get rid of because they are not seen as having a lot of potential profit. b) “Hunt Elephants.” In English: get your clients — some of whom are sophisticated, and some of whom aren’t — to trade whatever will bring the biggest profit to Goldman. Call me old-fashioned, but I don’t like selling my clients a product that is wrong for them. c) Find yourself sitting in a seat where your job is to trade any illiquid, opaque product with a three-letter acronym.

Today, many of these leaders display a Goldman Sachs culture quotient of exactly zero percent. I attend derivatives sales meetings where not one single minute is spent asking questions about how we can help clients. It’s purely about how we can make the most possible money off of them. If you were an alien from Mars and sat in on one of these meetings, you would believe that a client’s success or progress was not part of the thought process at all.

It makes me ill how callously people talk about ripping their clients off. Over the last 12 months I have seen five different managing directors refer to their own clients as “muppets,” sometimes over internal e-mail. Even after the S.E.C., Fabulous Fab, Abacus, God’s work, Carl Levin, Vampire Squids? No humility? I mean, come on. Integrity? It is eroding. I don’t know of any illegal behavior, but will people push the envelope and pitch lucrative and complicated products to clients even if they are not the simplest investments or the ones most directly aligned with the client’s goals? Absolutely. Every day, in fact.

It astounds me how little senior management gets a basic truth: If clients don’t trust you they will eventually stop doing business with you. It doesn’t matter how smart you are.

These days, the most common question I get from junior analysts about derivatives is, “How much money did we make off the client?” It bothers me every time I hear it, because it is a clear reflection of what they are observing from their leaders about the way they should behave. Now project 10 years into the future: You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to figure out that the junior analyst sitting quietly in the corner of the room hearing about “muppets,” “ripping eyeballs out” and “getting paid” doesn’t exactly turn into a model citizen.

When I was a first-year analyst I didn’t know where the bathroom was, or how to tie my shoelaces. I was taught to be concerned with learning the ropes, finding out what a derivative was, understanding finance, getting to know our clients and what motivated them, learning how they defined success and what we could do to help them get there.

My proudest moments in life — getting a full scholarship to go from South Africa to Stanford University, being selected as a Rhodes Scholar national finalist, winning a bronze medal for table tennis at the Maccabiah Games in Israel, known as the Jewish Olympics — have all come through hard work, with no shortcuts. Goldman Sachs today has become too much about shortcuts and not enough about achievement. It just doesn’t feel right to me anymore.

I hope this can be a wake-up call to the board of directors. Make the client the focal point of your business again. Without clients you will not make money. In fact, you will not exist. Weed out the morally bankrupt people, no matter how much money they make for the firm. And get the culture right again, so people want to work here for the right reasons. People who care only about making money will not sustain this firm — or the trust of its clients — for very much longer.

Greg Smith is resigning today as a Goldman Sachs executive director and head of the firm’s United States equity derivatives business in Europe, the Middle East and Africa.