Picture the scene… Jane and John decide to start a business together, they are childhood friends and worked together in their early twenties. Jane and John know each other well, they have complimentary skill sets and similar methods of problem solving. They are always on the same page and often finish each other’s sentences. So Jane and John go into business together and they smash it. They quickly hire Julian the junior and he doesn’t quite think like them, he is good at his job but just not as quick and intuitive as Jane and John. It’s ok, things are flying with them at the helm, new products are released and soon Julian is joined by Jim, Janet, Jemma and Jerry.
They continue to grow and 2 years later Jane and John now have a team of 25 people working for them. But they’ve noticed a bit of ‘culture slip’, not everyone is representing the company like they do.
Jane and John were the founders, the visionaries, they made decisions based on gut feelings. They knew each other so well before going into business, and shared the same principles, morals and values, but everyone else is new, and most of them never met before joining. The standards are slipping, and the culture has been diluted.
Here are my top 10 tips to build and maintain a strong company culture as you expand:
- Identify your core values as an organisation.
- Create systems and processes that embed these values into tangible daily actions, otherwise they are just fluffy sounding words some overly priced consultant or branding agency stuck up on your wall.
- Promote open mindedness at all levels of your organisation and start from the top. As a leader demonstrate your own open mindedness to others’ ideas and opinions.
- Always hire people with the notion in mind that character trumps capability. Choose who over what every time, and keep your standards just as high for the first person to the five hundredth.
- Aim to hire people that are better, stronger, smarter than you.
- Do not accept bad character or bad behaviour, and do not be afraid of public hangings to show your intolerance.
- Invest in the mental and emotional wellbeing of your team. Good humans make good employees.
- Leaders must show vulnerability, show they are human, acknowledge blind spots and continue to improve, this in turn sets the culture for every employee to continually learn and grow. Acknowledging a weakness is not the same as accepting it. We must strive to set standards where acknowledging and overcoming weaknesses becomes the norm.
- Don’t ignore problems – problems with people, with processes, or with any part of the business. Raise concerns and deal with them there and then.
- Ask for help. As a leader, or leaders, don’t suffer in silence and watch your culture spiral out of control. If you know you want to improve the culture but don’t know how then ask for external help.
I’ve been doing some work recently around values led culture change in SMEs, if you’re interested in what this could look like in your business then drop me a line to arrange a consultation firstname.lastname@example.org.