Ashwani Singla, Penn Schoen Berland talks about the effect of a company’s culture on communications
16th January 2014
In an interview with PRmoment India Radio Ashwani Singla, MD and Chief Executive Asia, Penn Schoen Berland (PSB), talks about how a company’s culture is the only binding force in today’s multi-faceted teams and how it dictates the business choices you make.
Interview with Ashwani Singla, MD and Chief Executive Asia, Penn Schoen Berland
Paarul Chand: PRmoment India radio is very pleased to welcome Ashwani Singla, MD and Chief Executive, Asia, Penn Schoen Berland. Welcome Ashwani to this new episode.
Ashwani Singla: Thank You Paarul.
Paarul Chand: Ashwani how does a company’s culture in action benefit a business in real terms?
Ashwani Singla: The critical benefit that culture really derives is that you synchronise what the company stands for versus how the company executes. If culture is the sum total of the individual behaviour of people within the organisation, then to be synchronous between the values of the organisation, the purpose of the organisation and way the organisation behaves is the fundamental reason why an organisation succeeds or fails.
Paarul Chand: In simple terms does it mean that the culture of a company is integral to the business growth of a firm or an organisation?
Ashwani Singla: Absolutely, the culture of an organisation is integral to its success. Example, let’s look at it in terms of sales. I could also say that the company values profits or profitability, therefore when you look at culture, I could easily look at short term transactions and say, this is making a lot of money but the transaction may not be in the long run interest of the company because it may set it on a part where it may not have any alignment to its long term goals. But in short term, it shows a lot of money. On the other hand you could choose an assignment where the profitability of the assignment over a period of time turns out to be far more valuable than the short term profit. Now culture allows you to make that decision and that choice.
Paarul Chand: Can you explain with a sectorial example?
Ashwani Singla: Yes, I will give you my own personal example for this. Very early on in the life of my public relations career when I started with Genesis, Prema and I together in the year 1998, I remember a client coming to us and saying that they would like you to be our PR Firm and they were at that time willing to offer 5 times the average retainer that the firm was demanding. And we felt that this client who was offering a lot of money to us and were very financially attractive, especially for a firm like us who had just started the business and were struggling, would have been a very good client for us and would have been extremely profitable in the short term. But we didn’t feel good about the fact that the client wasn’t hundred percent transparent with us, we didn’t think he had such a strong story and we walked away from that client. And one year later that client was in jail for fraud.
We are clear in the set of values and beliefs which ultimately transform into the choices you make. If we didn’t think that we would want to be the most professional public relations company in this country, the most strategic and ensured that our integrity is in the heart of what we do, we would not make that choice.
Paarul Chand: Do you think that the PR Business and the communication business which is traditionally very fragmented, has a lot of undercutting and perhaps not enough focus on culture is ready for this kind of approach?
Ashwani Singla: Tradition is all about creating backlog. There is no capital cost or constraint; there are no barriers to entry. Anyone can be a PR specialist as long as they believe they have a flair for it. So therefore you can have all kinds of people in the public relations industry and at all levels, this is the real problem in the industry. It is not about the industry per say, it is about the organisations that have agreed to make the choices.
Paarul Chand: Ashwani, how have you implemented, say an institutional framework for healthy culture at your workplace?
Ashwani Singla: In your performance development system, in your everyday tasks, do you see the benchmark or the points of referrals that you use to evaluate success? And are they aligned to your values and beliefs? Are they aligned to your values? It is good if you in a soft manner recognise people from time to time consistently for behaviour that is demonstrated with alignment of what you stand for. On the other hand if you do not castigate behaviour which is inconsistent to your values and beliefs, then also you send off signals. We are also very clear that the only reason you get fired in PSB is only because you acted against the core values and beliefs of the organisation.
Paarul Chand: One final question. The modern team is comprised of many skill sets and many age groups, so how do you handle that? And can culture play an important role in it?
Ashwani Singla: In fact culture is the only binder that you can have, because whether you are old or young, I hope you will have people who will value the same thing. Example, when we talked about our core values and beliefs, we say curiosity, we want to be learners. Whether you are young, old or have a different skill set – if you are not a learner how will you expand your mind?