If You Want a Successful Company Culture, Don't Copy Someone Else's
While "good artists copy but great artists steal" was popularized by the late Steve Jobs, when it comes to the culture of your company, it's imperative to draw a fine line between imitation and plagiarism as you start to transform your vision into reality. If you want to be successful, stop reading books by successful people because their story won't be your story. The job of leadership starts and ends with growth strategies that recognize the need for alternative thinking and inspire others to find inventive solutions to problems.
Every entrepreneur has a defining moment where her or she identifies a void in the marketplace that no one else has noticed, an idea that has the potential to change the way people do business. My moment came in late 2011 while I was evaluating a couple of different job offers from potential employers who were trying to poach me away from a cushy, well-paying job. On paper and through "credible" online resources, both firms seemed to have a strong company culture. When I tried to dig deeper, I realized that there was no way for me to get a handle on the experiential but critical aspects of the job such as the company's culture, manager's reputation and the overall vibe. Sure enough, not only did I not fit well with my boss, the job itself was a complete misfit for my personality, strengths and workplace needs.
When I set out to start my company, Good&Co, I knew that to define this idea, refine it and ultimately bring it to life, I needed to start from scratch. Basing your company's culture on a template you didn't design will come off as counterfeit. More importantly, you'll run the risk of having a company culture breaking down at precisely the moment when your business is on the brink of success or failure. If you want to create something truly unique, you need unique building blocks. Here's how we built a strong culture by starting from the ground up and why we believe if you don't build it, you will never truly own it.
Prioritize fit over function.
If your goal is to build a company that fosters alternative thinking in a world of convention, it's in your best interest to hire individuals who bring alternative work experience and diverse skill sets to your company. This will organically, and authentically, create an environment uncommon among your competitors. Alternatively, if your business requires like-minded individuals across all departments, traditional hiring conventions might be more in your favor.
Here at Good&Co, we actively seek out those who are, in a word, different. In a highly traditional industry like ours, deviant thinking is the only way to be original. We've found that input from people of different disciplines adds valuable perspective and a deeper level of examination when solving problems that affect the course of the business. At the end of the day, the culture of our company is based on diversity. We come from diverse backgrounds, which informs the way we approach work, and the essence of our successful collaboration depends on people voicing their opinions to help everyone see things differently. We're a team of cat lovers, ex-sommeliers, globetrotters and data geeks. We don't hire based on a one-size-fits-all formula because we believe our differences make us stronger -- a belief we've incorporated into our enterprise hiring tools.
Be transparent in cross-team, cross-country challenges.
When you've got remote teams, working across time zones and departments supporting collective business goals, problems will occur. If you're not vigilant, it's easy for project ownership to lose clarity, important details to be miscommunicated, and interoffice animosity to create toxic environments across a company.
There are a number of ways companies can collaborate even remotely to avoid recurring headaches. At Good&Co, we encourage open communication a variety of ways, including Slack, daily standups and twice-monthly "Show and Tell" sessions. More importantly, we also drink our own Kool-Aid and leverage our Team Dynamics tool to gain actionable, data-driven insights into each team's ever-changing dynamic.
Effective managers are up front about company challenges they can see from the top of the corporate ladder and inform their teams of what they can expect before they have it land on their plate. This way, what could become an unnecessary problem down the line is actively avoided through open lines of communication. At the end of the day, I firmly believe that employee engagement is a two-way street and greater transparency within a company will help build happier, more productive work environments for employees, no matter where they work.
Maximize delegation, accelerate success.
Placing your company's well-being in the hands of others will be challenging at first. Nevertheless, remember that you won't be the best at everything. You can care the most about the success of your business, but, unfortunately, you cannot build a company that relies entirely on the founder to dictate every detail of every decision because growth will be non-existent if this is the case in day-to-day operations.
The strategic minds that are shaping the future of your business must be allowed the bandwidth to do so unencumbered by tedious tasks that could otherwise be outsourced for a minimal expense. Our success from finding the right freelancers that we eventually brought on board has been invaluable to our growth. They enable our team members to parcel out time-consuming projects and focus their full attention on high priority items. Team leaders need to be unconstrained in order to devote the majority of their time to upper-funnel thinking. Strategic advancement should be paramount, while execution of the tasks that will make these changes a reality can, and should, be delegated.
Growing company culture from a seed to sequoia is not accomplished alone or overnight. When it comes to creating something that will stand the test of time, through phases, launches, ups and downs, the main cause of your success or failure will be the team you hand pick to help you grow.
Related Video: The Leadership Style You Need to Drive Your Company Culture