Most small business owners figure they do not have time for fluffy subjects like company culture. But if you want to make more money, you ought to pay attention.
The relationship between positive company culture and financial results is well documented, both scientifically and anecdotally. Some “experts” are reporting that companies can make 2x the profit by managing their culture. I believe that – really the potential is unlimited. Additionally a positive company culture leads to greater employee satisfaction and retention, more positive public perception and a stronger ability to attract qualified talent.
The question then becomes: what is culture and how do you get one?
What is Culture?
Consider how you might feel working in each of these different environments: an artisan bakery, a commercial construction site and a miniature golf course.
First impressions and culture are not the same, but this might give you a good idea how cultures can be different. At a bakery, the culture might be close-knit, warm and congenial. The construction site might be rugged, aggressive and fast-paced with authoritarian-style leadership. The mini-golf course might be laid-back, kid-friendly and you might have to learn to fix little things on your own.
In the corporate setting, culture is a collection of several things: leadership style, physical appearance, expectations, values, policies…essentially the culture is “the way things operate around here.”
The truth is that you already have a company culture. It might be positive or negative, ecclectic or disorganized, or hopefully fun or trustworthy. Maybe you didn’t cultivate it intentionally, but you have it. Maybe you haven’t noticed it before. Many business owners are too busy working on the daily tasks to stop and recognize the nature of the interactions going on around them. However, this is one of the critical functions of strategic thinking that can help owners create a breakthrough in income and results.
Step 2. Examine what your current internal culture actually is, and be honest. There’s no point in insisting that your company has a certain reputation if it really doesn’t (that actually makes you LESS trustworthy!) Once you know where you are, you can forge a path to where you want to be.
How do you understand what your culture currently is? Stop and ask yourself, “What is it like to work at my company?” (Let’s focus on your internal environment for now – we will talk next month about how to extend culture into excellent service and repeat customers). When you started your company, you probably had something in mind regarding what a day “at the office” would be like. Do you see it happening? If you really want good input, ask your employees what they experience and what they think the culture is. You could just ask casually, you could do a survey online, or you could have an open forum conversation at a meeting or luncheon. Accept real feedback – sometimes it’s hard to hear negative things but you need the truth in order to improve.
Step 3. Identify specific actions to bridge the gap. The first thing you will want to do is to communicate to your team what you want your brand to be. They have to know what they are aiming for! If a more formal internal culture is what’s needed to support your desired external image of professionalism, then you might update your dress code and provide opportunities for additional training for your employees. If you want to be seen as an innovative company, you might need to schedule brainstorming sessions and reward creative attempts as well as great results. If you want your customers to feel like a part of your family, then you are going to have to get to know each other as a team in order to authentically produce that feeling.
Monitor and adjust. It’s not going to change overnight. You might find a need to replace people who don’t naturally fit into the desired internal culture. You might have some tension and struggles, but stick to the plan. It’s worth it!
And if you need help, just call.
Slaughter, C. L. (2015). Organizational innovation’s moderation of culture effects on company financial performance (Order No. 3722169). Available from ProQuest Dissertations & Theses Global. (1720329514). Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com.library.capella.edu/docview/1720329514?accountid=27965
- Denison, 1984; Gordon & DiTomaso, 1992; Hartnell, Yi Ou, &
- Kinicki, 2011; Jimenez
- Jimenez, & Sanz
- Valle, 2011; Prajongo & McDermott, 2011