These 6 Business Leaders Share Their Top Advice for Creating a Stellar Company Culture

Business leaders from our Top Company Cultures list share their advice on how to boost your company culture.
These 6 Business Leaders Share Their Top Advice for Creating a Stellar Company Culture
Image credit: The Penny Hoarder
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For the second year, Entrepreneur partnered with CultureIQ to find the best office cultures in America. For more companies, tips and profiles, check out the rest of 2017's Top Company Cultures package.

Creating an awesome company culture is not easy, but it is important. In fact, a strong company culture is considered by many as one of the most important elements of running a successful business.

But creating a productive environment is easier said than done. To help you out, six business leaders from Entrepreneur’s Top Companies Cultures list, a ranking of high-performing cultures, have shared their best advice.

Related: How to Win on Company Culture

From hiring people who share the same values to encouraging employee feedback, here are some tips from business leaders around the U.S.

1. Make culture a priority.  

Own it. Culture is job one. Culture isn't the so-called "soft side" of business that entrepreneurs often think it is. You may have a fantastic product, but if your people can't work together, your company will underperform or fail. You can actually have an inferior product and beat your competitors with the right culture. It's that important. If you build an exceptional product and an exceptional culture, you create a nearly unbeatable combination.

-- CEO and founder, Ken McElrath of Skuid, a code-free UX management platform
Ranked in medium-business category on our Top Company Cultures list.

2. Define your company’s mission first.

Rather than focusing on “high performance,” define your company mission first. Having a mission isn't about writing some copy on your website. It's a set of values and principles that a company embodies in all aspects of how it does business. Being mission-driven is never a completed task. It's a mindset that can result in a team doing amazing work, and a product truly having a positive impact on the lives of its customers. As an entrepreneur, you should have a clear, guiding purpose, so you can repeat your mission a thousand times and have just as much passion and conviction as the first time you talked about it.

-- Josh Reeves, CEO and co-founder of Gusto, an online HR service
Ranked in large-business category on our Top Company Cultures list.

Related: Why Your Company Culture Needs to Be a Reflection of You

3. Every decision -- small or large -- has an impact on culture.

You can’t just put “culture” in the employee handbook and hope that it happens. We’ve found that every decision we make has an effect on our culture -- even things you might not think of.

For example, we realized we were sending the wrong signal around transparency and trust by locking up the office supplies. It was such a mindless decision, but it was sending the message that we didn’t trust our employees. Entrepreneurs should know that every minor decision affects their company culture.

-- Kyle Taylor, CEO and founder of The Penny Hoarder, a personal finance website
Ranked in small-business category on our Top Company Cultures list.

4. Work together and build a framework.

You can’t do this alone. You have to inspire every employee to think and act with clarity toward your business goals and company values, and ensure you’re trusting and empowering people to set up programs and infrastructure to support those goals and values.

High-performance cultures don’t happen organically; they’re designed, architected and built with intention: your intention.

-- Anna Binder, head of people operations at Asana, a software for tracking teamwork and managing projects
Ranked in large-business category on our Top Company Cultures list.

5. Hire people who share the same values.

Hire people who live by the core values you want your culture to embody. Hopefully these people also possess a high degree of empathy for others, are comfortable being uncomfortable and vulnerable and have an innate drive to become better versions of themselves.

Second, ensure that you as the leader authentically embody the core values you’re promoting.

Next, discover how the goals of each individual directly tie into the overall performance goals of the organization. Make sure this alignment is recognized and understood by everyone.

Lastly, live and breathe your culture, and take stock of it daily. Listen, get feedback, and get a very good sense of how people are feeling in your office. Pay attention, be present and realize that building an amazing culture is a never-ending process.

-- Sean Kelly, CEO and co-founder of SnackNation, a snack delivery service for offices
Ranked in medium-business category on our Top Company Cultures list.

Related: 3 Ways to Simplify Your Company Culture and Build Trust

6. Listen to your employees.

If you've already started a company, you've got all of the skills to be intentional about your culture -- but you have to prioritize it. Don't just rely on your own head to think through your shared values. Ask your team what drives them to work at your company, and what makes it a special place. Then codify and amplify what you hear back, and it will be a multiplier of power for your organization.

-- Scott Norton, co-founder of Sir Kensington’s, a maker of all-natural condiments
Ranked in small-business category on our Top Company Cultures list.

Edition: May 2017

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