Nine Common Traits of the Best Company Cultures

by Rita E. Garwood Jan/Feb 2024
Does your company have a winning culture, or is there room for improvement? The leaders of companies selected for Monitor’s 2024 Best Companies list in the culture category share the traits that set their companies apart and discuss nine common themes inherent in the best company cultures.

Rita E. Garwood,
Editor in Chief,

Tom Casey,
SLR Equipment Finance

Martin Golobic,
GreatAmerica Financial Services

Steve Grosso,
CEO & Vice Chairman,
Auxilior Capital Partners

Dominic Janney,
Canon Financial Services

Mike Jones,
President, Equipment Finance,
First Citizens Bank

Brij Patel,
President & CEO,
Alliance Funding Group

Alan Sikora,
First American Equipment Finance

Shawn R. Smith,
Founder & CEO,
Dedicated Financial GBC

Most people in the business world are familiar with Peter Drucker’s famous quote, “Culture eats strategy for breakfast,” which asserts that a company’s culture — the collection of its values, beliefs and practices — will make or break its ability to execute its strategies. But how is a winning culture created? We explore this topic with the leaders of the seven companies honored for their culture on this year’s Best Companies list.


Alliance Funding Group’s commitment to authenticity and fostering a positive, supportive environment makes it stand out when it comes to culture. For AFG, trust, support and accessibility are foundational elements which drive the company’s success and growth. The emphasis on real actions aligning with beliefs underscores the importance of authenticity in shaping a winning culture.

“Our culture revolves around authenticity, flexibility and genuine care,” Brij Patel, president and CEO of AFG, says. “We walk the talk.”


Built upon the fundamental belief that “above all we serve,” Auxilior Capital Partners is powered by a holocratic culture integrated with market-leading technologies resulting in an agile, digitally optimized business and operating model. Clear communication, a holistic approach to well-being, strategic employee development, multi-channel recognition and teamwork-related initiatives contribute to Auxilior’s sustainable and winning workplace culture.


The core values of caring, respect, integrity, commitment, communication, excellence and trust play a big role at Canon Financial Services, shaping the identity and behavior of the team. The commitment to Kyosei, meaning “all people, regardless of race, religion or culture, harmoniously living and working together into the future,” and the San-ji Spirit, which emphasizes self-motivation, self-management and self-awareness, solidify the foundation of CFS’s values. DE&I is deeply embedded in CFS’s culture, which creates an environment where every employee feels valued and included. Transparent communication, comprehensive well-being support and a robust approach to employee development are key pillars of CFS’s organizational culture.

“Our open-door policy encourages employees to voice their thoughts, creating a culture where ideas are welcomed and concerns are promptly addressed,” Dominic Janney, president of CFS, says. “Prioritizing transparency and communication contributes to an informed, engaged and aligned team, enhancing overall success and cohesion.”


The values of giving, grace, kindness and respect play pivotal roles at Dedicated Financial GBC. These values foster a culture where individuals feel valued, supported and motivated to work towards shared goals. Dedicated is committed to giving every team member a seat at the table, underscoring how inclusion is embedded in the organization’s culture.

“We believe that being a servant leader is the greatest of callings,” Sean Smith, founder and CEO of Dedicated Financial, says. Leaders at Dedicated communicate the company’s values every day by talking one-on-one with their teams, getting to know each team member, helping out where they can and being good listeners and mentors to all team members.


First American Equipment Finance’s culture is also driven by its values, and the company’s B.E.S.T. framework, which stands for “Be positive, Earn relationships, Strive for excellence and Take action,” serves as a guiding principle. This creates a work environment where individuals are inspired to contribute to the company’s vision. A comprehensive approach to diversity, equity and inclusion, coupled with transparent communication and support for team well-being, contributes to a robust organizational culture.

“We aim to be fully transparent as a company, and even the design choices that went into our HQ office space reflect our commitment to this,” Alan Sikora, CEO of First American, says. “With open architecture, glass walls and dedicated collaboration spaces, each unique feature of the building was chosen to infuse transparency and connectedness into all that we do.”


Mike Jones, president, equipment finance at First Citizens Bank says the values of integrity, respect, honesty, excellence, transparency and continuous improvement are foundational qualities that drive his team’s shared vision of success. By placing emphasis on buy-in from every team member and effective communication channels, First Citizens ensures that these values are ingrained in the organizational culture.

“Communication is essential to building and maintaining a common culture within our equipment finance organization,” Jones says. “The messaging starts at the top and is communicated directly by our executive leadership team in regular monthly all-team calls with the entire business. And it’s not just talk. Our senior executives are expected to model our culture of innovation, collaboration, servant leadership and customer-centric commitment to excellence.”


GreatAmerica Financial Services is one of the largest independents in equipment finance, and independence is a central component of its culture. “We have the freedom to focus on building a company that lasts,” Martin Golobic, CEO of GreatAmerica, says. “Our decision-making is unencumbered by external ownership, putting our team members at the helm of our customer-centric approach. Our team members have a direct influence on how well we perform with our customers, and their job satisfaction is tied to this sense of responsibility.”

GreatAmerica measures employee satisfaction with frequent surveys that boast high participation rates. A recent employee pulse survey indicated that 93% of the team are proud to work for the company.


SLR Equipment Finance has a vision based on empowering the members of its team to fully focus on and serve customers. The SLR team drives company strategies, reflecting SLR’s commitment to transparent communication. Embracing diversity and inclusion, SLR actively seeks a diverse talent pool and has achieved a significant representation of women in leadership roles.

“The culture of SLR has evolved during the past few years to greater transparency, more frequent communication, a member and customer focus and operational excellence,” Tom Casey, CEO of SLR Equipment Finance, says. “The opinions and ideas of our members are encouraged and respected. The environment is now team-oriented rather than a hierarchical structure. Company culture is difficult to change and there has been a consistent and apparent effort to achieve what has developed at SLR during the past few years.”


As the Monitor team learned more about how this year’s Best Companies in the culture category foster outstanding environments, a few common themes emerged:

1. Communication: Top-Down and Peer-to-Peer
Effective communication is a common thread, which emphasizes transparent and structured communication channels, regular updates and value-driven messaging. Companies that prioritize
communication create working environments where every team member is informed, engaged and aligned with the company’s goals.

2. Fostering Diversity, Equity and Inclusion

Although we have a separate Best Companies category for DE&I, it is an integral component of culture as well. Whether through dedicated DE&I teams, initiatives or employee resource groups, organizations with great company culture actively champion diversity in all its forms, fostering an inclusive environment in which every individual’s voice is valued.

3. Well-Being Support: Holistic Employee Care

The well-being of employees matters. Team members perform better when they believe their companies care about them. Whether through onsite amenities, events or comprehensive benefits packages, companies with the best cultures prioritize the physical, mental and emotional well-being of their team members, which contributes to a positive and supportive workplace.

4. Employee Development: Lifelong Learning

Encouraging employee development is a focal point of a great culture. Mentorship programs, development programs like STRIPES Leadership Program and opportunities for ongoing education, certification and skill development showcase a commitment to lifelong learning, which ensures that team members continually evolve and grow in their personal and professional capacities.

5. Loyalty: Trust and Opportunity

Trust and opportunity are the foundation upon which culture is built. Open communication channels, loyalty-specific surveys and a culture of accountability help organizations prioritize building trust to cultivate a loyal and dedicated team.

6. Innovation: Embracing Growth Opportunities

A culture of innovation and learning from setbacks empowers employees to bring new ideas to
the table, take calculated risks and learn from failures. This fosters a dynamic environment
where innovation thrives, which contributes to the continuous improvement of an organization.

7. Employee Recognition: Celebrating Achievements

Employees love recognition — who doesn’t? Monthly awards, incentives trips, cash prizes and peer-nominated recognition programs can contribute to a positive work environment in which achievements are celebrated, reinforcing a sense of accomplishment and pride.

8. Ongoing Evolution: Adapting and Adding Values

Company culture is a living entity that must be nurtured, guided and transformed as it grows. Leaders can ensure their company culture is evolving by fostering authenticity, aligning organizational cultures after a merger or by adding new core values to align with the changing needs of their workforce and business landscape.

9. Fun and Respect

A significant factor of employee satisfaction is the amount of fun and respect they perceive within the organization. Prioritizing respect for colleagues and customers, coupled with a culture of honesty, trust and collaboration, creates a positive working environment. Fun activities, events and engagement initiatives further contribute to building solid working relationships.

Of course, this is not a comprehensive list of everything leadership can do to create a culture that attracts top talent and retains them for the long haul. What would you add to this list?•

Rita E. Garwood is editor in chief of Monitor.

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