How many entrepreneurs think about company culture? Many of us are thinking about the product, customer service, revenues, expenses, and profits. These are important in any business. But the biggest challenge for any small business is to attract, retain, nurture, and get the most out of their talent.
Some companies have been innovative for over 100 years in spite of change in leadership, business environment, or product class. What makes these companies innovative?
The kind of people a business wants to attract depends a lot on their company culture. A marketing executive from a very large restaurant chain once told me of an employee who just joined their firm, he wore a suit all the time, the CEO of the restaurant chain cut up this employee’s tie, and said “We are a casual company. There’s no place for suits and ties.” Eventually, as you may have guessed, this employee quit the company within 10 days of joining.
There are many other companies where it’s the opposite; almost everyone wears a suit and a tie. This is just one example of company culture.
In my opinion, along with talent, company culture is one of the top factors in the success of a business. A lot of times, the culture within a business is so negative that it just breeds failure. The best employees eventually quit, and the business is stuck with mediocre ones who eventually destroy the company.
Here are some ways to build a great company culture.
Trust your team
A lot of companies hide their business plans, revenues, and most information about the business from their employees.
There are occasions when confidentiality is important. However, most of the time it makes sense to share information with your employees. Sharing information doesn’t just build trust, it also empowers them to make better decisions and help your business get ahead.
Trust and then verify.
Some people will take advantage of that trust, but that does not mean you should stop trusting everybody. Get rid of the people you don’t trust and stick to the ones you trust.
Work as a Team
A lot of success depends on the ability of your employees to work as a team. A company full of stars but can’t work together as a team will struggle to get superior results.
How many times have we seen this in sport? A team full of stars touted as favorites to win will lose to a team with lesser individual talent and ability.
Have Company-Wide Goals and Mission Statements
Jack Welch, in his book ‘Winning’ said, the mission statement is so important that you should say it so many times that people get tired of listening to it.
A dedicated mission statement gives a company direction and purpose, and every team member works towards this purpose.
When an employee’s values align with the mission of the company, there’s a higher probability of being committed to the company’s goals.
Involve everyone in the decision making process
Sometimes, a CEO has so much experience behind him that he doesn’t involve employees in the decision making process.
No single employee has all the answers, neither does the CEO. Look for answers in different places within your company.
Each team member has their own unique experiences and perspectives to contribute to your team. A CEO need not implement every suggestion, but it’s important to listen to every suggestion, and take a call.
As a company expands, most founders involuntarily tend to limit their employee’s feedback in the decision-making process. The employee then becomes like a machine and merely follows instructions rather than contributing their ideas which are way more valuable than manual labor. Most talented people want to have a voice, and make a meaningful impact.
If the founders don’t appreciate great ideas, rarely will the people on the field come up with suggestions that might be more valuable than the ones coming from the people sitting in ivory towers.
Don’t put yourself on the top
Resist the temptation to be a problem solver. Entrepreneurs love to be fire fighters putting off fires on a daily basis.
When an employee comes to you with a problem, don’t give them a solution right away, ask them to think about a solution. Encourage them to think, grow, evolve, and solve problems themselves rather than coming to you for every single detail.
Company culture is a ‘make or break’ factor in business. In my opinion, it’s more important than anything else. Companies with great cultures flourish, and go on to impact the lives of their employees, customers, and society as a whole.