There are CEOs who know that culture eats strategy for breakfast!

I sometimes get discouraged by the number of executives who don’t seem to think that a healthy corporate culture is as important as efficient operations, a differentiating brand, and other business success factors.  But then I meet an executive like Lars Björk and my faith is restored.

Lars is the CEO of QlikTech, a Radnor, PA company whose QlikView software transforms data – big and small – into meaningful and easily-accessible information.  QlikTech was founded in Sweden in 1993 with the aim of solving critical problems for organizations of all sizes, including the largest global enterprises.  With more than 30,000 customers in 100 countries QlikTech’s success has placed it in the top three of Forbes’ 2012 list of America’s 25 fastest-growing tech companies, alongside Apple and LinkedIn. The company has grown 300 percent since 2007.

Lars talks about the importance of culture: “Cultures are built from people, brands arise from cultures, and customers buy brands.  That makes people – and culture – a bottom-line issue.”  He put this in catchy terms in a recent talk: “Happy people, happy customers, lead to happy financials.”

But Lars doesn’t just talk about culture; he puts his money where his mouth is.  As an example, he takes great pride in QlikTech’s annual employee gathering.  The entire staff of more than 1,300, from entry-level administrative assistants to the executive team from 23 countries and throughout the United States, is invited.

His philosophy behind this annual expenditure?  He looks at it as an investment rather than an expense.  Says Lars, “I know this is increasingly rare.  Amid fiscal cliffs, deficits, and debt ceilings, corporations are focused on a single-minded goal: cutting costs.  However, without more focus on investment, companies may be undercutting their own futures.

“Yet if cost is the only thing that comes to mind to those ever conscious of the bottom line, they’ve missed the entire point of growing a company.  Employee summits are really an investment in a company’s most valuable asset – its culture.  Companies that cut costs by short-changing culture may just be sacrificing their futures to scale the next quarter’s results.”

Bravo, Lars!