When building a company, you have your head down most of the time just getting the work done with little time for celebrating success. This was my experience. I told myself we were too busy to stop; as long as our clients were happy, we should be, too. More important, I worried that if we sat around patting ourselves on the back, we’d fall behind.
But I was wrong.
As we grew, I heard our more tenured teammates having “Remember when…” conversations about company turning points. I realized newer teammates had no idea what they were talking about. We were missing the chance to mark key milestones and capture and share our company’s history.
It didn’t take long for me to correct course so we could put a stake in the ground during important moments and communicate more proactively with our team about what makes our company unique. Once we did, we began seeing great benefits.
Here are a few ways I brought our company’s story to life:
1. Encourage employees to become brand ambassadors.
I invite new employees to my office for breakfast. More than muffins and chitchat, it gives me the chance to tell our brand’s story. I take them through a brief presentation, narrating each era of the company’s history -- significant turning points, how we reacted, what we learned and how our decisions propelled us forward. Then, I invite each new employee to become a “Keeper of the Seal.”
The Keeper of the Seal is a tradition that began in the time of Edward the Confessor. The seal symbolized the integrity of the country, and its keeper was a figure of great esteem -- designated the most trustworthy and honorable of all the king’s subjects.
The seal represents trust and authenticity in our company, too. When we invite employees to become Keepers of the Seal, we’re asking them to become guardians of the Mitchell brand -- to feel a sense of ownership and pride in the company. This time together also allows me to be a storyteller, recounting our vibrant history and bringing our unique heritage to life in our employees’ minds.
2. Create long-term success with short-term celebration.
Research shows that celebrating small wins can be critical to long-term success and employee happiness. In the life of an entrepreneur, risks and setbacks are so common that celebrating small markers of success can boost morale and refuel you for the fight ahead.
We hold quarterly “Bright Spots” meetings when the entire company gets together to share team accomplishments and showcase client work. It’s a chance to check up on targets, update financials, practice our presentation skills and celebrate good news.
Everyone welcomes taking the time to celebrate success. When employees are given the chance to be seen and heard in front of their peers -- to be publicly reinforced and appreciated -- they feel more motivated to turn those small wins into long-term successes.
A recent study by the University of Warwick found that happy employees are 12 percent more productive than unhappy ones. Celebrating small wins and publicly appreciating hard work yields better morale, a greater sense of meaning and, subsequently, a higher level of employee retention.
3. Appreciate individual contributions.
Take time to stop and tell employees why you value them. These conversations help them see the importance of their work and how it impacts the business. Authentic engagement such as this goes a long way toward earning the loyalty of employees and enhancing their appreciation of a culture that celebrates everyone’s contributions.
4. Encourage teamwork.
While it’s important to connect with employees individually and in small groups, you must also emphasize teamwork, especially among leaders. Tie bonus programs to companywide business goals, not just department wins. Encourage cross-team collaboration and communication at all levels so information and ideas flow seamlessly. Celebrate team wins, and illustrate how exponential results are created when talented teams work together.
Whether you send out regular companywide emails, hold coffee chats or gather the troops together, marking company milestones and sharing your story will create a sense of team pride. It will see you through the hard times and make the good ones that much better.