Workplace Culture is Your Biggest Asset


  • CEOs agree that workplace culture is their most powerful asset, yet it ranks low on their list of priorities.
  • According to research, a great culture affects reputation, hiring and employee retention.
  • Mark Miller suggests leaders start by making space for hopes and dreams, amplifying vision and values often, and adapting the aspiration as needed.
  • Systems like polls and surveys can help monitor the health of an organization’s culture.

586 words ~ 3 Minute Read

Leaders know that culture matters. But with so many problems to solve and goals to reach, it’s hard to make workplace culture a priority. In bestselling author Mark Miller’s recent book Culture Rules: The Leader’s Guide to Creating the Ultimate Competitive Advantage, he surveyed more than 6000 individuals from 10 countries. Although 67% of global leaders agreed that culture is their most powerful tool, workplace culture failed to show up in a top 10 list of priorities. 

Unfortunately, this disconnect has far reaching consequences. Culture affects everything from reputation to hiring to employee retention. In a Glassdoor survey, 56% of employees said workplace culture was even more important than salary. Elevating your company culture doesn’t have to be daunting, according to Miller. His book outlines a simple strategic framework to create a thriving high-performance culture. Below are three rules to help you define the culture you want, integrate your message into the workplace, and find success by listening, learning, and adjusting. 

Get Clear

Humans want to feel connected to something bigger than themselves. That’s why Miller’s first rule is called Aspire. Most leaders have already identified their organization’s aspirations—the difference here is communication. Miller advises leaders to translate their vision, mission, purpose, and core beliefs for employees. When aspirations remain unsaid, confusion reigns instead of culture. Maintaining values and articulating your vision not only outlines boundaries and expectations, it also creates a sense of shared purpose.

Repeat Often 

It’s not enough to announce your organization’s expectations. Instead, Miller says you have to Amplify them, which is the second rule in his strategic framework. Leaders can amplify their vision, mission, and core values in many ways, and Miller suggests using a variety of methods. The world is loud and distracting, and to build a better culture, employees need reminders. 

One technique Miller recommends involves looking at the last 30 days of your calendar and finding activities you personally engaged in that match your aspiration. Then, the goal is to strategize how you can use these same activities in the future to amplify your aspiration. This process can be far reaching, affecting everything from hiring descriptions to onboarding of new employees to recognizing team members who embody the mission and core values of your organization. 

Listen & Learn

Enhancing workplace culture is not a one and done proposition. The last rule Miller wants leaders to understand is Adapt. In other words, clarifying your vision and values is important, but how do they actually land with the people that work for you? Miller advises leaders to prioritize listening so that you understand if your aspiration is on target or if it needs an adjustment. Systems that help identify problems that affect workplace satisfaction are important ways leaders can monitor the health of the culture they’ve worked so hard to build. Listening sessions and surveys are great ways to take the pulse of your organization. HR morning has cataloged 45 sample questions to help employers build their own customized survey to measure workplace engagement and satisfaction. 

The Bottom Line 

Taking the time to reflect on the three rules of Miller’s framework—Aspire, Amplify, and Adapt—will help you develop and maintain a healthy workplace culture. The long-term benefits for organizations are huge when people are more connected to their idea or mission because that will make them more invested in it. It’s up to leaders to carve out space for the hopes and dreams of their team members, so they can create a culture that allows all members of their organization to thrive.

FNB Foursome Wins 18th Annual Pat Houser Golf Tournament; Skills Foundation Wins Big

With a score of 18 under par at the challenging Totfrees Resort, four golfers representing FNB Wealth Management claimed the title of 2023 Champions at the 18th annual Pat Houser Golf Tournament. Hosted by the Skills Foundation, the event raised over $43,000 to assist people with intellectual disabilities supported by Skills of Central PA in 17 counties.

Competing in a “shamble” format, 22 teams squared off in the tournament that memorializes a founding member of the Skills Board of Directors, Pat Houser. Besides the chasing the title of 2023 Champions, the golfers also had the chance to challenge one another in various other contests throughout the day. The “longest drive competition” was won by Frank Wiley (Lynn Warehousing team), from the 12th tee box. The “longest putt contest” was won by Jason Nagy (Sheetz team) on the 18th green, and the “closest to the pin” award went to Bill Wilkinson (FNB Team). Joel Confer Toyota offered $10,000 cash to any contestant that could land a “hole in one.” However, the huge prize went unclaimed, in spite of some great efforts that included two competitors just inches from the hole.

Gavin Howe, Shane Crawford, Vince Strugala, and Bill Wilkinson comprised the winning team from FNB Wealth Management. Finishing second overall, was the Mainline Pharmacy team, with a scorecard showing twelve under par. Third place went to the foursome representing Sheetz Inc.

A special raffle was conducted to raise additional funds, giving all those who purchased a ticket the chance to win a week-long stay at a beach house in Ocean Isle, North Carolina. The drawing took place at the conclusion of the golf outing, and Todd Miller, from Howard, PA was the lucky winner.

The winning foursome from FNB Wealth Management scored 18 under par in the 18th annual Pat Houser Memorial Golf Tournament, which raised over $43,000 for the Skills Foundation. Left to right are Vince Strugala, Bill Wilkinson, Gavin Howe, and Shane Crawford posed on the fairway at Toftrees Resort.

The Best Business Tax Strategy? Being Tax-Free, of Course. Here’s How.

In 2006, second generation business owner Ken Baker needed to create some liquidity to address some financial obligations. His company, NewAge Industries in Southampton, PA was a small but successful manufacturer of plastic tubing and hose. The company was started from scratch by his father, who decided to retire after many years at the company.

Ken looked into taking on a loan, but was not enamored with the additional debt. He then learned about an “ESOP” an Employee Stock Ownership Plan. After much research and deliberation, Ken sold 30% of the company to his employees. Because an ESOP is part of an ERISA sanctioned trust, with employee shares held within that trust, the profits of Ken’s company were now 30% tax free. That’s right, TAX FREE, both Federal and State of PA. And in addition, the employees pay nothing. Not a penny.

 Immediately after converting to employee ownership, Ken’s company began to grow. The employees now had a real stake in the organization’s profits. Employee owned companies are, on average, as much as 8-12% more productive, year-over-year, than traditional companies, according to the National Center for Employee Ownership. Over the next 12 years, the company share price grew over 1,100%, with Ken still owning the vast majority of the profits. In 2019, Ken sold the balance of the company to the employees at a dramatically higher share price, reaped tremendously greater rewards than he would have, and NewAge is now a 100% tax free organization. Ken remains as CEO, managing all day-to-day operations, and even owns shares as an employee in the ESOP. The tax benefits have created additional cash and contributed to the growth of the company.

Here is how it all works.

Employee Ownership rewards owners, preserves legacy, creates real financial futures for workers, keeps businesses here in Pennsylvania and bolsters the economy. And yet very few know about ESOPs.

ESOPs are not a trick or a loop-hole device. They are a US Department of Labor program, established in 1974 by Senator Russell Long and economist Lewis Kelso. Generally designed for businesses with 20 or more employees, the goal was to create a deferred tax program that would allow business growth and address the ever concerning problem of retirement for workers. When employees leave the business, via retirement or otherwise, they can cash in their shares and pay ordinary income tax, just like a 401(k). The difference is that employees pay nothing for this benefit.

 The Exit Planning Institute estimates that, due to the aging of the Baby Boomers, as many as 4 million companies, large and small, will transact within a 10-year period. It is further expected that up to 30% of those businesses will simply disappear. These facts make succession planning a critical business issue. So what is your strategy for succession? For growing the business? For caring for your family? Employee Ownership is not only an exit/succession planning alternative but is also a business growth strategy. 

But what if your business does not have 20 employees? What if you are a Main Street or Commercial Corridor business? A café, hardware store, retail, or service organization? There’s a relatively new program called an Employee Ownership Trust that is designed specifically for smaller organizations. Just like an ESOP, a business owner can sell some or all of the shares to the employees for an agreed upon amount. The shares of the business are held in a Perpetual Trust, and the profits of the business belong to the employees in a way designed by the selling owner and the employees.

 The owner(s) reap value from their years of work and the employees now profit from their daily efforts. Although relatively new in the US, EOTs have been common in the UK for generations. The large UK Department Store, John Lewis, has been employee owned for over 100 years! You can read about them here.

The Pennsylvania Center for Employee Ownership is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit that exists for one reason, to raise awareness about a remarkable program that can benefit business and business owners. We sell nothing and charge nothing for our work. We do not provide accounting or professional services. We are a volunteer collective of CEOs with experience in various forms of employee ownership; professionals in the industry (CPA’s, Attorneys, Wealth Managers, etc.); and Foundations and Universities (Rutgers, University of California San Diego, University of Pittsburgh, Chatham University). We are dedicated to simply helping to raise awareness about an important program.

If you would like to learn more about ESOPs and employee ownership, join us for the Chamber’s next Coffee Conversations on Thursday, September 7, from 8:30 – 10:00 am at the Chamber office, 131 S. Fraser Street, Suite 1, State College, PA 16801.

3 Qualities Successful Business Owners Share


  • Good leaders have the ability to share a clear, compelling vision that attracts top talent and serves a greater purpose.
  • Great leaders are capable of adapting to change and leveraging diversity while creating an environment of psychological safety.
  • Business owners who build authentic relationships with their peers, team members, customers, and partners make better leaders
  • Developing skills related to personal and professional growth can help small business owners innovate around challenges and inspire others effectively

716 Words ~ 4 Minute Read

What’s the difference between a good leader and a great one? When it comes to entrepreneurship, successful small business owners have certain qualities that serve them and their business. The reality is most entrepreneurs aren’t born with these characteristics but acquire them over time. The ability to communicate a compelling vision, adapt to change, and build relationships are three qualities that successful small business owners share. This article outlines the importance of each quality and how you can develop these traits for yourself. 

Clear Vision 

A compelling vision is like a magnet that attracts the right people. In an age where hiring and retaining top talent matters more than ever, the ability to share your vision is a difference maker. Humans naturally want to feel inspired and to connect to something bigger than themselves. Unfortunately, many employees have no sense of their company’s vision. They simply show up, do their work, and go home. Successful business owners have a vision that excites and inspires their employees. 

What makes a vision compelling? According to Building Champions, an Oregon executive coaching firm, casting a clear vision requires asking yourself the three Bs: 

  1. Belong. What do you want your team members to belong to? Your answers are tied to your convictions and sense of purpose. 
  2. Become. What’s your ideal version of your company? Your vision asks you to see the future and imagine the story of your ideal brand, business systems, partnerships, employees, and reputation. 
  3. Build. What do you need to work on? Rather than short-term, your business ambitions should sync up with the story of who you want to become. 

Building Champions offers a free Vision Tool for leaders ready to do the work of vision casting. 


One thing business owners know is that nothing stays the same. The ability to pivot and innovate is a hallmark of businesses that survived the pandemic and a common denominator for the ones that thrived. 

Adaptability isn’t a trait that comes naturally to everyone. Yet, as a leader it’s essential. Monica Thakrar, President of MTI, a leadership and mindfulness training, coaching and consulting firm based in Washington DC, believes adaptive leaders know how to do these things

  • Leverage diversity to remain flexible and open to different perspectives
  • Continuously learn new ways of thinking inside and outside of their specific industry
  • Create an environment of psychological safety, where others feel comfortable sharing their views and opinions without judgment
  • Practice emotional agility with the help of supportive relationships, self-awareness, and optimistic mindsets.

If you don’t feel like an adaptable leader today, Thakar recommends starting by developing self-awareness around how you deal with setbacks. Are you able to learn from them or do they create unhelpful judgment or blame? She also encourages leaders to build relationships with peers who can provide support when things get tough. Thakar reminds business owners that the time to build your adaptability muscles is today — so you’re ready when the next challenge arrives.

Builds Relationships

Successful entrepreneurs are good at building relationships. And that’s different from enjoying small talk, as evidenced by how many successful entrepreneurs describe themselves as introverts. Leaders who cultivate relationships with industry partners, employees, and customers know a simple truth: you can’t do business alone. Research has even shown that investing in relationships at work will make you happier. 

Sam Kaufman, a business coach and Forbes’ contributor, recommends getting to know your team members on a personal level. According to Kaufman, one-on-one meetings are crucial for maintaining a positive, collaborative work environment. These meetings should focus on personal goals, family, and other topics important to the employee. Additionally, Kaufman coaches leaders to allocate a few minutes at the start of team meetings for personal updates to emphasize the value of life outside of work. 

When it comes to external relationships, Kaufman says that sharing your life with your customers promotes closeness. Use your current systems like blog, email, or social media to share your business story, updates on projects, and profiles of employees. 

The Takeaway

There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to becoming a successful entrepreneur. Being a good leader requires that you take time to hone skills specific to your personal and professional growth. With persistence and practice, anyone can become an excellent leader capable of innovating around challenges and inspiring others along the way.


Celebrating the Future of Mount Nittany Health

Mount Nittany Health is investing in our people and projects in the Centre region by rapidly growing our skilled team of providers and making sure they have state-of-the-art facilities to deliver award-winning care.

The last decade alone has seen immense growth in demand for primary and specialty care providers, diagnostic testing, inpatient care, and outpatient services. Mount Nittany Health is responding with major projects that will have a lasting impact in the Centre region.

“Right now is a great moment for Mount Nittany Health,” said Kurt Kissinger, Chief Strategy and Development Officer, Mount Nittany Health. “We are building on our 120-year commitment to serve this community, and we’re doing it with significant, generational investments in our care environments and our people.”

The new Outpatient Center at Toftrees West and the Patient Tower at the Mount Nittany Medical Center are currently under construction. Other renovations include the new Women & Children’s Services unit, Laboratory Services, and the Dialysis Unit, along with the completion of Phase I of the Diagnostic Pavilion; the second phase is underway.

According to Kathleen Rhine, President and CEO, Mount Nittany Health, “I’m so proud of everyone who has been involved in planning for the new Patient Tower. It has been a true collaboration with everyone putting their heads together and working toward a common goal—outstanding patient care.”

“The new Patient Tower will help create a better environment for the medical staff and nursing professionals caring for our community members,” said Amber Shaw, RN, Manager, ICU/PCU, Mount Nittany Health. “We are here to take care of our patients. This is an investment in our patients, our community and all those staff that care for our patients in those communities.”

At the event, Mount Nittany Health shared a video featuring prominent local community leaders and volunteers, who talked about the importance of having a strong, community governed health system and their personal experience with Mount Nittany Health.

“The people in the community are blessed to have Mount Nittany Medical Center,” said Sue Paterno, community member, volunteer, and philanthropist. “It’s all encompassing, no matter what we need –they [Mount Nittany Health] will provide.”

“A community hospital is owned and controlled by the community,” said Paul Silvis, Founder and CEO, SilcoTek. “The end result is better care for all of us.”

Mount Nittany Health is investing more in our people and projects than any other healthcare system in our region. This commitment to excellence in all we do is at the heart of our mission of ‘Healthier people, stronger community.’ Follow along for more updates at