All About Organizational Culture | Learn from Mabaat, Sala City, and Sohba Coffee

All About Organizational Culture | Learn from Mabaat, Sala City, and Sohba Coffee

November 30, 2022

8 minutes read
8 minutes read

November 30, 2022

Pause for a moment and try to ponder the following with us: What does your company stand for? Why did you start it?

Entertain this scenario: a customer walks into a work cafe, he booked a private room for an hour but stayed for an hour and 10 minutes. When he left, the cashier asked him to pay for the 10 extra minutes he stayed. However, the customer declined saying it was only 10 minutes, no big deal. Now there are several ways the ending to this situation could play out. One: the cashier will handle it in a way that aligns with your cafe/company values. Two: the cashier will have to call in the supervisor. Three: the cashier will try to solve it, but end up making it worse.

Now, personality differences aside, what is the main point that could impact how the cashier reacts and responds? Company culture! The same thing that answers our intro questions on values, mission, and vision!

Let’s go over what exactly is a company’s culture and all its glorious details.

What is “Organizational Culture”?

The general definition differs from one place to another, some companies use their qualities  (like innovation, quality, or originality) to define their culture. Others define it as the way employees communicate with each other (managers, employees, and customers).

Either way you look at it, a company’s culture is its strategic and operational guide and compass. Which makes defining it an integral and vital part of your initial plan.

Talents care about a company’s culture because it answers their “is this the right place for me?” question. Customers care about it because it helps them set expectations about the place and services.

How does culture influence all aspects of your organization?

Culture is the foundation of your organization’s identity (Read more on its importance: Is the “Coffee Shop” market too saturated for your cafe? | Lessons from Respire and Elixir Bunn).

It sets the tone for how your recruiters deal with candidates, how your branch manager deals with your branch employees, how your cashier deals with an unhappy customer.

In short, good organizational culture:

  • helps you attract the right talent, and turn them into ambassadors.
  • Attracts customers, retains them, and turns them into loyal advocates.
  • Maintains good and healthy workflow.
  • Determines your employees’ performance and attitude.
  • Structures conflict resolution internally and externally.

How do I set my organizational culture?

Let’s go back to where we started: What does your company stand for? Why did you start it?

As we mentioned earlier, your organization’s culture and identity are strongly intertwined.  

You have to start from your goal. For example, as a cafe owner, you care about providing an exceptional customer experience. But think about it in a more detailed way: Is the “exceptional” part your environment? Or speed of service? Or new and trendy products? Culture is all about the details.

Another example would be having a family restaurant, setting this value “family” early on will set the tone for everyone. Your employees will know that complaints about children should not be resolved by asking the children to be quiet, because this particular preference has no place in a family restaurant.

What makes an organizational culture?

  • Goals, vision, and mission: Who are we? Where are we headed?
  • Organizational values.
  • Policies and procedures.
  • Point of difference: What makes us special?

After you determine the aforementioned points, you’ll have a clearer understanding of what your organizational structure and workflow should look like.

To help you out more, Professors Robert E. Quinn and Kim S. Cameron (from the University of Michigan) divided organizational cultures into 4 types:

Adhocracy Culture

Innovation, adaptability, and flexibility

The exact opposite of a hierarchy, every decision is made by the team (no one has the final say alone). It deals with problems as they arise instead of planning ahead.

Clan Culture

Commitment, Collaboration, and Loyalty

A family-like environment. Everyone’s goals and values align. Its structure is more horizontal, and it focuses on long-term goals while avoiding internal competitiveness.

Hierarchy Culture

Structure, stability, and consistency

In a hierarchical structure, roles and responsibilities are clearly defined. There’s a president, a vice president, a department head…etc. There is also a set of standardized rules and procedures that everyone follows. Even though a hierarchical culture focuses on maintaining organizational stability in the long run, it is looked down on in today’s market.

Market Culture

Profits, competition, and speed

The main focus of this culture is results, which are usually yielded through competition. It is considered the most aggressive and capitalistic of all 4 organizational cultures.

You can always combine more than one type. Understanding these types will help you sort out your priorities when it comes to your work environment and structure.

We got in-touch with a couple of outstanding local companies that have shown impressive attention when it comes to organizational culture, and asked them a couple of questions:


Mabaat is a real estate company that started in late 2020, it specializes in the short-term rental market and managing high-end properties on the behalf of property owners. It started out in Jeddah and expanded to multiple key locations around Saudi Arabia.

When we discussed to a representative about the company culture:

We are value-driven, and that value is measured by customer satisfaction and retention.

There are 2 key points that are communicated to employees:

  • You have to have a sense of ownership. This isn’t just a job, you have to care about what you do to give it your best effort.
  • Your deliverables are the measure, we don’t care about what minute you checked in or out, we care about you getting your work done, done well, and on time.

They are keen on selecting the best candidates based on 2 main things: their decision-making and social skills. To ensure that each employee has these 2 important skills, they go through a training period divided into 2 phases: 3 days of shadowing a supervisor, and  1-2 weeks of on-job-training.

How does Mabaat’s culture support Its employees?

  • We do various team-building activities once or twice a month.
  • We coach employees through their mishaps, they have a chance to discuss whatever mistake they’ve made with a leading supervisor to better understand what went wrong, what to learn, and how to avoid repeating it.

Sala City

Sala is an entertainment destination for all family members. It started in 2011 and is considered one of the first entertainment companies that caters to all ages.

When we talked to a representative about the company culture, he emphasized on valuing time and workflow “no time is wasted”. Each employee receives 2 days of training.

As an organization that employs people in different specialties and various positions, how does Sala encourage employees to maintain quality work even in “routine” roles (such as game operators)?

  • Our employees have a career development program.
  • We reward and compensate fairly and on-time.

How does Sala’s culture support Its employees?

  • Each employee has a 10-level development program, to gain the necessary skills and experience at each level.
  • Communication is key. No topic is too small or big, we’re willing to listen, ask, and discuss.

Sohba Coffee

Sohba is a place that tells you who they are and what it is the minute you walk in. It’s a place for everyone: the worker, the talker, the student, and the people-watcher.

When we talked to someone from Sohba, they told us that they always value character over experience. They said: experience can be accumulated, and skill can be learned. But personality and character, that’s not something you can easily teach. They focus on the employee’s demeanor from the moment we consider them a candidate.

We break barriers with questions, we ask each other to help each other. We also strive to balance assertiveness with kindness, and dealing with every situation as it requires. Work rules are non-negotiable, but someone having to leave a few minutes early for an emergency is certainly negotiable.

We asked: how do you encourage and support consistent quality in an industry with high turnover rates?

  • Our doors are always open, there is always room for a discussion and a conversation.
  • We are on our employees’ side.

How does Sohba’s culture support Its employees?

  • We care about our employees’ morale and work hard to support it.
  • We do our best to resolve conflict in a friendly manner before resorting to strikes and warning.

Remember: your organizational culture sets the tone for how everyone deals with each other, and how decisions are made. It deserves your attention.

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