The Spirit is the Difference


Our guiding principles are carefully outlined in The Spirit Is The Difference, a book based on the personal insights of our Founder Richard “Dick” Farmer. The publication is referenced frequently by executive leadership and management.


While the idea of an ESG strategy would become popular decades later, the philosophy on which Dick based our company’s management structure was very much ESG-centric. He was ahead of his time.


The Spirit Is The Difference explains how we continually strive to prioritize long-term company value, keep our people involved and central to all our decisions, and operate in an ethical, moral, and compliant manner. These three concepts define ESG and bring our corporate culture into greater focus.


To understand how ESG has been embedded in our company from our beginnings, it helps to understand more about us – and the people behind the company.


At Cintas, we don’t refer to each other as employees, staff, or colleagues; we refer to each other as partners. The term partner describes the mutual trust and respect we have for each other, and the values and culture responsible for our accomplishments. Considering each other as partners in our collective success is crucial to how we operate, and it’s the foundation of our corporate culture. It’s what makes Cintas so unique and special.


Our unique culture at Cintas is just as essential as our products and services. In fact, it makes all the difference, impacting the quality of the employee-partners we hire; the way we communicate and interact with each other, our customers, and our suppliers; and our world-class performance standards


We credit our success to our corporate culture. It’s the cornerstone of our values, our behaviors, our way of working, and how we approach our business. It’s central to creating and maintaining strong relationships, and a dedication to taking care of one another.


Our culture has three elements: our Principal Objective, our corporate character, and our management system.



our principal objective

Dick Farmer believed that organizations needed a guiding principle on which to base all decision-making and that without it, they were doomed for failure.


With this in mind, our Board of Directors established our Principal Objective in 1979:


"We will exceed our customers’ expectations to maximize the long-term value of Cintas for its shareholders and working partners." 


This statement is woven throughout our entire company, gives our organization direction, and clearly defines our expectations and standards for our management team. Decisions made by the company are measured against our Principal Objective.


our corporate character

We’ve carefully considered the characteristics and behaviors we want and aspire to exhibit to each other, to our customers, and to the communities in which we do business. These include the following.

  • High ethical and moral values: We believe in strict separation of business and personal affairs. We are very careful about gifts, entertainment, and business courtesies. We do not want to do anything that could place us in a compromising position or cause us to lose our objectivity. We encourage employee-partners to use these basic but insightful questions for guidance:
    • Is it legal? Am I complying with law or company policy?
    • How will it make me feel about myself?
    • How will I feel if my decision is made public?
    • Will I feel good if my family knows about it?
  • Full compliance with all governmental laws and regulations: After first making sure that we understand the governmental laws and regulations that we face in business, and our options in relation to them, we work to comply. There is no other way to run a business.
  • Thoroughness: If it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing right and deserves thorough attention.
  • A Spartan attitude about our business: We look at every cost very carefully and ask ourselves, “If I were buying this with my own money, would I spend it on this?”
  • Doing what’s right, not what’s expedient: We don’t target short-term gains at the expense of long-term value. Instead we focus on what is the right thing to do.
  • Humility and respect for all employee-partners: Everyone at Cintas makes vital contributions to our success. We recognize the potential in every human being and are careful to involve everyone. We want each employee-partner to be a confident, contributing member of the team. Leaders don’t have all the answers and many times, the smartest and best solutions can come from the front lines where the work is being performed.
  • Professional appearance: We have a dress code at all our facilities and believe outward appearances of our people, facilities, and vehicles say a lot about us and our company.
  • Courtesy: A hallmark of our interactions is plain common courtesy – good manners and politeness. We believe nice people attract nice people and courtesy is contagious. This is especially true in a service business like ours.
  • Enthusiasm: Positive attitudes and optimism are a must in a fast-paced environment like ours. A positive outlook goes a long way in cultivating success.
  • Competitive urgency: Exceeding the needs of our customers and fellow employee-partners is a simple, overriding business necessity. We should attend to details of our business with a sense of urgency, enthusiasm, professionalism.
  • Positive discontent: We’re never satisfied with the status quo, or content to leave things as they are. We’re always seeking improvements to our processes, systems, products, and services.




our management system

We’re guided by a dynamic management system, with policies and procedures that help promote our ongoing reliability and operational consistency. However, we still provide leeway and guidance to help our employee-partners to make decisions that best suit our customers and business needs. 


In fact, we’re a company of systems built on established ways of doing things. Our policies and procedures are specific guidelines describing how to handle certain recurring situations. Our management system is the constitution upon which we run our business and it guides us through what we should and should not do.

"At Cintas, we firmly believe our corporate culture – our people and the principles, values, and behaviors we cultivate and share – is responsible for our success. And we believe the ongoing viability of our culture will have the greatest impact on our future accomplishments."


The Spirit is the Difference