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As CEO of Mainstreet, the largest developer of skilled nursing facilities in the US, and other companies, Zeke Turner remains focused on maintaining and reinforcing a positive corporate culture and clear goals.

“Our mission is to transform lives,” he says. “We want to have a positive impact on the society around us and do it through excellent business practice. We can’t do that if we don’t have a great group of people pulling in the same direction.” Turner said in a talk at the Senior Living Innovation Forum.

“Culture,” says Turner, was Merriam-Webster’s #1 word of 2014 and every company has “a culture…whether they like it or not.” The key is for leadership to “intentionally” create this culture, and maintain and refine it with a goal of excellence. Employees must wholeheartedly buy-in to leadership’s vision, or everything will fall apart.

The Importance of Going “All In”

Halfway doesn’t work. To build strong cultures, companies must go “All In.” Employee satisfaction and motivation is essential, says Turner, who points to disappointing statistics about the current state of overall job satisfaction.

He notes that only 31% of all employees describe themselves as “engaged” in their jobs, a startling statistic that highlights the significance of building a strong corporate culture—the basis for high employee engagement (“from ‘interest’ to ‘all-in’).


“The mission to transform lives is both external and internal. So we have every opportunity to have an impact on people inside the company as we do outside the company.”

Culture Takes Time, Diligence

Turner’s recommendations for creating a winning culture involve consistency, hard work and time. “Communicate expectations extensively. They may need to hear it seven times before they get it. And then continue to do that. It can be exhausting for leadership,” he says.

Equally important, communicate what is “not acceptable” just as clearly and nearly as often. Turner’s companies have taken time to clearly define behaviors unacceptable for employees and reinforced what they wanted them to do. “We’ve actually let people go for gossip,” he says.

“For example, if you complain about IT to your coworker, that’s gossip. It can become a cancer in your organization.” There’s a strong difference between constructive criticism (suggesting ‘doable’ ways to improve performance to leadership vs. incessant complaining to coworkers without positive action) and mindless gossip.

“It takes time, sometimes five to seven years to change a culture.

And you have to be patient and steadfast.”

Hire Deliberately

Turner emphasizes the importance of “patience” in the recruitment process. When companies like Mainstreet create a desirable corporate culture, it’s a given that potential employees will want to work for them.


So being qualified for a position should be just the beginning; applicants need to show what they can bring to the table—long-term. “We’ve adjusted our hiring to make people show how they can impact the culture, not just “like it.”’”

“Great culture affects the talent density of your organization. One rock star can have a compounding effect.

Your actual culture will be shown (long term) in who gets promoted and who gets let go.”  

Create a Timeline

To create a lasting, positive culture, set a good climate, create strong parameters and enforce rules, he says. “It’s important to create consistency with expectations and clear communication.”

“You have to break down the future into smaller increments, like a Russian nesting doll, from 25 years all the way down to next 90 days,” Turner says.

For the full presentation, watch the video below. Enjoy!


Michael P. Owens

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Michael P. Owens is Co-Founder + Managing Partner of influence group, a leading producer of invite-only B2B events.

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