Having the freedom to develop a unique company culture is one of the perks of being a business owner.
But you don’t have to be a big-budget giant like Costco, Starbucks or Google to have an exemplary company culture.
Every small business is capable of creating an environment that supports and appreciates team members and clients that can promote happiness, productivity and retention.
A thriving culture can be marketed to attract new hires, as well.
What is Company Culture?
Company culture isn’t something you necessarily create. It is in you already. It starts before you ever have a team.
If you as a Leader operate with integrity, deliver on promises and are responsive to customer service emails, you are demonstrating an abundance culture that you want your team members to participate in.
If you over-promise, under-deliver, and delay in responding to customers, you are showing team members that this kind of lackadaisical behavior is okay.
Culture isn’t found in the company branding or personality (although those are expressions of culture), and it isn’t defined by employee perks, like Google’s nap pods or free haircuts. These things can carry you for a while and make employees happy, but they won’t sustain a team for the long-haul.
“Without a defined culture, employees get disenchanted; they move on,” said Michael Monteiro, CEO of Buildium in an interview.
Culture must be articulated and clearly shared with team members to promote happiness, performance and retention.
Your culture should answer:
- Why does your company do what it does?
- What do you believe?
- Where are you going?
We like to say that culture is like the character of the company you are building. It is a reflection of your vision and values, and who you are through times of prosperity and turmoil.
If you have a hard time looking inward at who you are and what your company stands for, it helps to evaluate brands that you follow and give your loyalty.
What is it about them that you like? Why do you frequent the businesses that you do? What do you observe about how their employees and managers treat you?
When your culture is adequately defined and shared with your team members, it is time to live it out.
What Does It Mean To Live Your Company Culture?
Culture is the undercurrent that guides how and why employees do what they do.
It also drives performance
In creating a “cult-like” culture, Cameron Herold grew 1-800-GOT-JUNK’s revenue from $2 to $106 million in just 6 years.
It is also what has garnered Scribe Media national media attention.
The Austin, Tx.-based publishing and marketing company believes in a “whole self” culture that is so popular, they receive thousands of applications for every job opening — and they only employ less than 50 people.
A successfully lived out company culture is modeled from the top-down.
Scribe Media CEO JT McCormick wept, sharing about childhood trauma at a team building session, which set the tone for other employees to also be transparent.
If your team does not reflect the culture you want, look inward. Are you embodying and demonstrating the culture you expect of others? Where are you falling short?
If you are doing your part as a Leader to demonstrate the culture you’ve defined, does the issue lie with the people in the room?
If it is a people problem, revamp your hiring process so that it vets candidates based on culture. Chirlane McCray is quoted saying, “If you ask the right questions, you learn a lot about people.”
Implement culture-based questions into your hiring process such as: “What has shaped you, regardless of your school or occupation?” or “One year from now, if you’re part of the team, how will you judge if your time here has been a success?”
If the problem lies with the company, you may want to make some changes. But before you feel like you need to treat your entire team to an all-expenses paid vacation to adequately show your appreciation, ask yourself two questions:
- Is the change you want to make something that your team really wants or needs to be successful at their job?
- Is the change you want to make sustainable? Can you sustain it as your team grows?
Remember, showing team member appreciation doesn’t have to be elaborate or expensive. It could be stalking their Facebook or Pinterest account and buying them something they like or have pinned. Or buying them their favorite candy bar or writing a simple thank you note.
Whatever your culture is, live it from the top-down, demonstrate the behavior you want to see from others, and find sustainable ways to appreciate and thank your team.
How Do You Promote Your Company Culture?
It is commonly believed that a tree is defined by its fruit. When you define, articulate and live out your culture, you are producing good fruit that should be shared with others.
Finding ways to be transparent about your company culture increases its marketability to attract new talent and improve your brand reputation.
Leverage social media to show your company from the inside-out by live tweeting your events, or going on Facebook or Instagram live to give followers a peek behind the curtain.
Use your website to highlight team achievement, announcements and your vision and values. Volunteer as an organization in your community, or implement an “open day” policy where third-round candidates are invited to spend part of the day in the office to meet the team, see how you operate and give them a first-hand look at your culture.
Send clients and team members surveys to gauge satisfaction or happiness. How likely are they to refer your company? Find out what you could do to make their experience better.
Creating a kick-ass culture doesn’t have to be complex, and it doesn’t require a big budget. But it does require intentionality, self-awareness as a leader, and a willingness to practice what you preach to truly make an impact with your team.
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