Company culture continues to be more and more important to small businesses as they realize the impact it has, both positive and negative. What’s great about culture and values in your organization is that you have control over building the culture you want. So, let’s get into the principles of how to create a positive company culture that we’ve used to create and maintain our unique culture, even while doubling in employee count the past couple years.
Positive Culture takes Conscious Effort
The first thing is it has to be conscious. Too many business owners get stuck in the day to day, working more hours than they should. Basically going from fire to fire, and they don’t ever take the time to consciously create their culture. Well, the culture will get created either way, but if you don’t have a say in it, it’s not going to be the culture that you want.
When I bought a gym a few years ago, the culture existed, and it was terrible. It was the culture of entitlement where the coaches felt like they ran the gym. The previous owners didn’t have any respect because they just assumed that everything was happening the way they wanted, despite never telling anybody how they wanted it or following up and providing training on how things should be done. So instead, each coach kind of did their own thing. You have to be conscious about the culture you want in the workplace.
Reinforce Culture in Regular Meetings
Part of that conscious effort is you need to remind yourself and your team often what your culture is. That usually means you need to have regular meetings with your team. We have a weekly team meeting, and we try to have regular one on one meetings with each of our team members and their supervisors as well. In those meetings, we reinforce culture, we talk about it, we share how our vision, which is very directly tied to our culture, affects what they do on a day-to-day basis.
Bake Culture into Decision Making
In addition to other meetings, the culture needs to be baked into everything that you do as a company. For example, if you’re training your team on how to do something, share with them how that matches the culture that you’re trying to build, how it maintains it, how it improves it, how you protect it.
Even in a tax firm, the way we handle customer complaints is very much related to our culture. And we explain that, yes, we want the client to be happy, but we also want to protect the professional. Because in our industry it’s very common for the accountant to become abused. Not always purposely, but they do become abused by the way the client tries to treat them sometimes. We are always going to protect our team first. We do not have a culture of the client is always right. If we did, clients would go to jail, we would go to jail.
When I owned the gym, clients were not always right. If we did, you know, it’s like, Bob, don’t do that. Don’t lift that way, you’re going to injure yourself. Then Bob is like, no, no, I got it. We of course tell him, no, you don’t, don’t do that. Bob insists, no, but I’m right. Okay, we concede, because the customer’s always right. And then he gets injured. So that’s not our culture.
Our culture is to provide a great service that gives the client the ability to grow their wealth through tax and accounting savings while protecting our accountants from abusive relationships. So when we train our customer complaint team member how to handle those, that is what she’s looking at. Let’s gather all the facts. Let’s kind of figure out where did we make a mistake, we’ll improve. Is the client being unreasonable? Or worse, are they being abusive?
New Hire Culture Training Videos
In our company we actually have culture training videos that all new hires watch, and so that’s another way to create a lasting company culture is show them on their first week, this is who we are.
Now, of course, if you interviewed the right way, they’re not going to be surprised with your culture training video. So, you want to bring your culture into the interview process as well.
Cultural Integration Interview
For us, when we’re interviewing candidates, we want to make sure they can handle being professional, but also irreverent at times. We’re anti traditional. We don’t wear suits and ties. Traditional culture I would call stiff and stuck up, or snooty. Others might refer to it as the Ivy League culture, let’s be prestigious and refined. That’s not us. We don’t want to take ourselves too seriously. So, in the interview process, we play improv games with the candidate to see if they have a sense of humor and to see if they can handle our company’s sense of humor.
Financial Impact of Company Culture
It will be devastating to your company if you don’t consciously have influence and direction over the culture that you want to create for your company. Because in every case that I’ve seen, when the owner is not purposely building a culture, the culture is poisonous. That’s because the squeaky wheel gets the grease as they say. In this case, the poisonous team members are the ones who take all the attention. They’re the ones who cause all the drama, and that is going to perpetuate without any sort of control over it. It’s so devastating because now you have great team members who aren’t going to put up with the poisonous team members, and they leave. And replacing A players is very costly.
So those are a few ideas on how to create a positive company culture. Whatever you do, be intentional and get involved. You don’t have to have it all figured out. It’s okay for things to change and evolve. It will only be positive and lead to a better company culture as long as you remain conscious of it.
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