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4 Ways to Cultivate a Culture Worthy of Top Industry Talent

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"Culture eats strategy for breakfast." That quote, first attributed to Peter Drucker, says it all -- but what does it mean?

It's one solution to a problem which has plagued business owners since time immemorial: how do you attract and retain top talent? C-level executives love to ignite fierce discussions about it, hundreds of guides and reports have been written around it, and chances are you used that problem -- however phrased -- to find this article.

We've all been there. You're hit by this bolt out of nowhere, a rock star who leaves you blown away -- or you nurture a member of your team and watch their talent blossom. Then they leave you in the dust, off to pastures new and you're floundering without them.

Related: Why Company Culture Is More Important Than Ever

Some say a business plan is all you need -- if your growth objectives and targets are solid, you'll attract great talent. That might sway a business school professor, but to real world professionals, the "business plan route" is just plain wrong.

Superlative recruits are attracted a company's fantastic culture, not their facts and figures, however solid. Over time, a well-cultivated culture fosters internal and external brand loyalty. Why? Tactics and targets can be copied, but a good work environment is to be prized.

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

Take Tom Villante, CEO at YapStone -- a leading FinTech payments company, for example. To excel in the payment processing industry, Tom knew the key to business success lay in attracting talent. Implementing an enviable work culture has allowed YapStone to attract executives from leading tech companies like Salesforce, PayPal and eBay. I asked Tom if he had any tips for businesses looking to attract and retain the best minds in their industry, and he had this to say:

1. Relationships are key.

Culture is really just another word for your employees' relationships, with each other and the customers they serve, and how healthy they are determines the success of your business. Strong, co-operative relationships are motivating, energizing and foster great mental health which is important for productivity. Emphasize personal service for your customers and your workforce to make them feel valued, and pay attention to how these relationships function across a wider network -- your industry peers will sit up and take notice.

2. Know what and who you stand with.

The most crucial part of a great culture is involvement: if they don't feel their ideas are being heard, your best minds will drop you like dog mess. The easiest way to unite a team is through strong branding. Embrace your brand to its fullest extent in everything you do: what defines your business, what doesn't define it, and why each member of your team belongs. You will find they gravitate naturally to strong ideas that appeal to their sense of identity, and feel an increased sense of loyalty.

3. Change yourself, change your culture.

Your staff looks to you for guidance and leadership, so you should be the catalyst for any change that takes place. Treat your staff and customers exactly how you would have them treat each other and you will witness a trickle-down effect that will transform the entire atmosphere of your workplace. Action begets action: don't let yourself fall behind your own plans. At YapStone,Tom makes a conscious effort to lead his team from within, and it shows in the progress they've made.

4. Commit to the process.

Your workplace culture needs improving: admitting it is the first step. The "normal' way of doing things may not be the "right' way -- after all, if it was truly "right', you wouldn't be thinking about revitalizing your workplace culture in the first place. Assess your company's existing culture by hiring a specialist consultant, or circulating anonymous, incentivised surveys to your staff. Don't just have a vague notion of doing "something' in the future -- commit to an action step, right now.

Related: What Company Culture Is Really About

It's crucial to foster a great workplace culture, no matter the size of your team, your business goals or your budget. Nurturing an enjoyable environment not only helps you retain your best team members, it also takes a lot of stress off your plate -- make it a priority today.

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