A Company’s Culture Is Critical. Can You Define Yours?

Larry McAlister
A Company’s Culture Is Critical. Can You Define Yours?


Equinix CEO Steve Smith leaves no doubt about how important he believes Equinix’s culture has been to the company’s past, and how critical it is to its future. He’s written about how Equinix’s “authentic, gritty, smart and fun” culture was a huge draw for him when he was being considered for the top job at Equinix a decade ago. And he touts it as a major asset as Equinix expands on our leading position in the data center and interconnection industry.

“Our culture is at the heart of our competitive advantage,” Steve says.

But what exactly is a company culture, and how do we define ours at Equinix? These are important questions we’ve worked hard to answer, with Steve’s backing and guidance. The reality is that every company has a culture, whether it chooses to examine it or not, and if it can’t tell you what that culture is, it can’t build on what’s successful or make needed changes.

There’s no doubt that it’s difficult to create a culture that breeds success and supports a motivated, satisfied work force. It goes way beyond a series of slogans plastered on posters on the wall. But this hard work must be done. At Equinix, our culture is who we are. It’s critical to how we hire, how we recognize and reward our employees, and how we do business. And cultivating a healthy culture may be the most important thing a company can do.

Equinix’s operating system

An article in the Harvard Business Review described a company’s culture as “the operating system of an organization.” It really doesn’t get more fundamental than that.

The article continued, “Organizations that build great cultures are able to meet the demands of the fast-paced, customer-centric, digital world we live in. More and more organizations are beginning to realize that culture can’t be left to chance.”

Building a strong culture at Equinix has become particularly important for us in recent years, which have seen the two biggest acquisitions in Equinix history. Our purchase of Europe-based Telecity last year and this year’s purchase of 29 Verizon data centers in North and Latin America involved welcoming hundreds of new employees, all of whom we want to integrate into the Equinix family as quickly as possible.

We created “The Magic of Equinix” to codify our culture so our existing employees, new employees and prospective candidates have clarity about who we are and how we engage with each other every day. Authenticity was essential for us, so we worked with hundreds of our employees to shape and validate the principles it promotes. Here are the key values of The Magic of Equinix:

  • Open Your Heart, Open Your Mind: Listen for better understanding and be balanced in your perspective.
  • Put We Before Me: Be as committed to each other’s success as you are to your own.
  • Speak Up, Step Up: Have the conviction to say what you think.
  • Keep Your Promises: Be accountable and insist on it from others.
  • Be an Energy Supplier: Inspire others with your passion.
  • Find a Better Way: Foster creativity. Experiment, fail fast, learn quickly.
  • Serve Others: Think bigger than yourself.
  • Keep Growing: Invest in your development, and we’ll invest in you.

Our values are such an integral part of our company culture at Equinix that we started a peer recognition program called Magical Mentions. Any employee can recognize any other global employee for demonstrating one of our eight values – they just need to explain how their colleague embodies that value. These “Magical Mentions” are accessible on our intranet for all employees to see. Each quarter, the program recognizes an employee who lives the values of Equinix so completely, that fellow employees give him or her the most “magical mentions” on an internal website. That employee gets to be an ambassador for the Equinix culture by visiting any of the 44 markets in 22 countries where we operate data centers.

Shanna Huntington of our Tampa office traveled to London as the 2016 Q3 winner. “There isn’t a boring day in our office,” she said. “And if I was thinking of the most important value that comes from the Magic of Equinix, it would be all the energy suppliers that are in our company.”

Shanna’s understanding of the Equinix culture and her colleagues’ recognition of how she exemplifies it are hopeful signs that the work we’ve done to define who we are at Equinix is paying off. But that work can’t ever end for Equinix, or any company, because tomorrow is always coming, and its culture will determine what a company looks like when it gets here.

I am exceedingly proud of our culture, values and the Magic of Equinix. I encourage you to learn more about it all and let me know what you think!

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Larry McAlister Former Vice President, Global Talent Management
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