Sponsored

SME Culture Leaders 2018: Judge Phil Lewis on why “culture begins the moment there's two people in a room”

4 min read

23 July 2018

Former special projects journalist

Corporate Punk is a consultancy that offers the manifesto that “creativity is power”. Here, MD Phil Lewis tells us more about his vision of company culture.

Corporate Punk is a consultancy that aims to “support businesses who want to transform their productivity, momentum and growth.”

Phil Lewis, managing director of Corporate Punk, has compiled a business culture manifesto, Creativity is Power, which provides diagnostic tools and reveals the steps business leaders can follow to turn their organisation into a “creative powerhouse”.

Lewis was one of our seven judges of our 25 SME Culture Leaders List, compiled in partnership with Breathe. The campaign aimed to promote positive company culture, and find the best of the best from across the UK. You can find out more about the general process and the winners here.

In the meantime, here’s what Lewis had to say about company culture. 

How would you define company culture?


Culture is the often unseen social order, ways of working and stories that determine why some things happen fast, and some things crawl along or don’t happen at all. It might be helpful to think of it as the operating system of a business – a bit like iOS or Android.

Why is getting culture right important for businesses, particularly SMEs?

When the operating system works, the result is happy collaboration, useful innovation, and profitable outcomes. When it crashes, the consequences can be crushed spirits, bad decision-making and financial loss.

This applies to businesses of all sizes, but getting it right is particularly important for smaller businesses, who often lack the balance sheet strength to deal with the set-backs caused by a team working together ineffectively.

How can SMEs avoid box-ticking?

Start with language. Culture can be a bit like Britishness – everyone has a vague sense of what it is, but how one person would describe it might be rather different from another. You have to put a shared language around the culture you have and the culture you want.

Next, look to data. Find ways of analysing and benchmarking how your culture performs. Ultimately, if you can’t describe or quantify something, you can’t manage it. Our impact culture formula might be a useful place to start in both these contexts.

What is your experience around culture? What makes you a voice of authority in this space?

Corporate Punk is an organisational performance practice. We work with a range of fast-growing businesses as well as large corporate clients such as Sony and the BBC. Unlike many other businesses, we specialise in culture change – it’s not a side-show to other work such as brand development.

We are at the forefront of innovation in the culture change space: for example, we have a range of unique psychological tools and techniques that help identify what people really think and feel about their culture, rather than what they claim to think and feel.

We deliver tangible commercial results: most of our clients’ experience revenue and/or profitability gains as a result of our work. And 87% of our clients come back to us after we’ve helped to solve their first problem.

What would make a strong entry for next year’s entrants? What would impress you?

Focus on the relationship between the culture and the business. At Corporate Punk we’re not interested in free fruit, ping-pong tables and beer fridges – they don’t deliver much of tangible value. We’re interested in seeing how the way that you work with people informs the results you get, and why. Evidence of genuine innovation is always exciting, too.

In association with Breathe, Real Business is running the SME Culture Leaders List 2019, the only league table of its kind catering to the UK’s thriving small and medium businesses that put company culture first.