Company culture is about creating a set of values that reflect who you are and what your business is trying to achieve in the market place. For companies large and small, it has become increasingly important that their culture be infused in everything they do, from operations and human resources to marketing.
Business owners who successfully raise the profile of their cultures inside and outside of their companies will be faced with the challenge of preserving their cultures as they scale their businesses. Here are 10 ways to make sure your unique culture grows with your company.
1 – Set the Tone at the Top
Before beginning the effort to maintain their culture, small business owners need to identify which aspects contribute to employee happiness and productivity. Clarify the values, competencies, and work styles necessary to maintain your desired workplace culture. This process should be collaborative as it requires both input and buy-in from company leaders and management.
No matter how small or large your business, those at the top set the tone and create the ethical climate for all other employees. This applies to areas ranging from employee interaction to how those leaders view clients and everything in between.
2 – Foster Employee Engagement
Let your employees know that their opinions and suggestions matter. If employees believe they can and should contribute to the company’s purpose, they will help build and sustain a healthy company culture.
Once you’ve defined your company’s core values, it’s important to reiterate them constantly rather than just filing them away in a drawer. Consider identifying value leaders in the organization and giving them company-wide recognition. Start a culture committee and give its members autonomy to make decisions. Assure them that you will support their ideas and recommendations as your business grows.
3 – Establish an Endgame
Set consistent goals for the company: weekly, monthly, quarterly, and/or yearly. Communicate these goals to your employees clearly so they can help you get there. In the absence of specific objectives, employees often lack a sense of purpose and struggle to know what they are working for. This can hinder not only their personal success, but the success of the business.
4 – Define Your Hiring Practices
Identify a list of values that all new hires must meet. This will ensure that those you bring on board now and down the road will mesh well with your current culture. These values also help define your customers, marketing, human resources actions, operations management, and many tough decisions your company will make over time.
It is imperative that those you hire or promote into leadership positions not only fit your culture, but are also willing to invest in and build on it. If your senior management is not totally committed, it’s unlikely your culture will survive.
5 – Retain Key Employees
Define who your key employees are and why they are valuable to your company. They are the leaders within your business, whether they are in a position of authority or not. You should then commit to keeping them on board long-term. As a first step, tell each of them how important they are and that you want to ensure their continued tenure and success.
6 – Make it Personal
Smaller companies have unique ways of doing business and sharing responsibilities, often as a result of a lack of personnel. There are few layers of management, which allows the small business owner to be more hands-on, stay in touch with workers, and guide the direction of the business personally.
The more personnel a company has, the harder it is for business owners to maintain that level of personal engagement. To keep your company culture strong, you need to make sure that your involvement continues to be felt as much as possible.
Make yourself personally accessible to your employees. Although it’s hard to maintain close relationships with a large group of people, commit to remembering their names and showing genuine interest in their lives. This will go a long way towards preserving an open, respectful, and positive company culture.
7 – Keep Communicating
Small businesses often have an open door policy allowing employees the freedom to directly communicate with the owner. As the staff grows, however, this ease of communication is often stifled.
Fast and accurate communication throughout the organization is the key to keeping a small-company culture within a growing organization. As the owner, expect to communicate regularly. Your leadership and employees need to feel informed, included, and inspired to get involved.
All levels of management must work at maintaining a policy of open communication with their employees. This can be accomplished through frequent meet-ups over a coffee break, at lunchtime, via email, over the phone, or during a casual visit. It takes extra time and energy, but open communication will keep the team feeling respected and valued.
8 – Take it Outside
When a company grows, it is harder for employees to get to know each other or sustain established relationships. Hosting non-work events outside the office will foster a sense of social closeness between employees that will help build camaraderie and sustain a small-company culture. Whether it’s a mid-summer barbeque, charity softball game, or impromptu catered lunch, events that are not work-related will give employees opportunities to bond on a more personal level.
9 – Treat Customers with a Small Business Perspective
Small businesses have a reputation for showing empathy and understanding and being responsive to customers. As a company grows, that personal touch may be lost when customers are dealing with a different employee for every business need. It is critical to remind employees of the importance of seeing things from a small business perspective and continuing to support customer needs on a personal level.
10 – Invest in Employee Happiness
Maintaining a small-company mindset requires an investment of time, effort, and resources, and the greatest return is likely to be employee happiness. Happy workers tend to remain with a company longer, lowering training and severance costs. They’re also more productive, taking fewer sick days and ultimately improving the bottom line. A happy worker is an asset to the company that is well worth the cost of creating and continuing a small-company culture.
Culture matters at Summit Financial Resources. As a small business, we know that an enjoyable and sustainable company culture is not only crucial for our team’s morale, but also an intrinsic aspect of our brand that is central to attracting business partners, clients, and new talent.
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