How to Keep Company Culture Intact as You Grow Your BusinessJuly 7, 2015
Growing a business is hard work; not least increasing your capacity as far as your products and services go, but also in terms of your staff. Not only does recruitment take up a lot of time and money but the efforts to then retain your top staff also adds a lot of pressure.
Great company culture tends to be a main factor in the successful retention of staff, so it is crucial that you, as the founder of the company, maintain the very culture that, no doubt, attracted the best talent in the first place.
Many people will have had countless experiences working for companies where the culture is dull and perhaps non-existent, so much so that they feel like they don’t belong. Staff will be looking to you to experience something different at your company; something livelier; a culture where things are just done differently; a culture where they belong!
The concept of having a company culture to belong to is something that CEO and founder of strategy consultants Skarbek Associates, Paul Heugh sees as incredibly important, stating: “A strong culture helps fulfil that need for that identity, that sense of belongingness”, adding that it “creates the positive conditions people need to flourish.”
There are many things that you can do to ensure your business culture is kept intact as your business continues to grow:
1. Start by identifying what your culture is
You can’t protect your company culture if you don’t even know what it is. So many businesses make the mistake of relying on buzzwords and cheesy phrases to sum up their culture and then just expect their culture to exist. But this doesn’t work.
Take time to think about how you want your company to work, all the ins and out, right from how you run your company meetings, down to how you answer the phones. The more time you take to work everything out, the more effective your leadership will be.
This won’t necessarily be easy, since not everything will be able to be defined. You also can’t control every single thing, such as how people working for you will act or think. So, you need to keep in mind that your culture will shift slightly as more staff, suppliers and investors are taken on.
It is normal for things to evolve so don’t panic. This is something that Mikkel Svane, CEO and founder of customer service technology company Zendesk recognises, commenting that culture is “a living thing, a living organism that will change over time and will change with the number of people and the teams that you put in place. The culture needs to mature and evolve too.’
2. Make sure you hire the right people
The key to a robust culture is ensuring you have the right people working for you. It is therefore always worth taking a little bit of extra time to make sure you recruit the right people rather than rushing into a hiring decision and trying to mould the wrong people to fit your culture.
Titus Sharpe, CEO and founder of MVF, a marketing agency, explains how they make sure they hire the right people for their culture: “We’ve got six thing we look for in people – the most important thing we look for by far is energy. They’ve got to have that trait otherwise we don’t hire them.”
3. Take time to communicate what your company culture is
Even though you might have hired the right people, you’ve still got to give them some direction when it comes to your culture. Take time to introduce new employees to the history of the company and get them excited about where it’s going.
Inductions are an incredibly important part of this communication. You need to ensure that you, the founder, take time to introduce yourself, the company and its culture to every employee. This doesn’t mean you have to do 1-1 inductions. Get everyone together once a month; that shouldn’t be too much of a big ask. As the CEO, you’ve got to show your employees you’re following the company culture you’ve defined, otherwise why should they?
4. Encourage staff interactions
As businesses grow, one of the biggest problems CEOs experience is that their company starts to develop silos. It is part of human nature to develop connections with people that we feel we have most in common with, however, this can cause problems and weaken the culture at work if the resulting groups makes others feel alone or not part of the ‘crowd’.
Think about events and activities you can implement in order to ensure people connect company-wide, such as free company breakfasts, networking sessions and perhaps even a table tennis table! Sharpe explains how they tacked the issue of silos at MVF, by introducing: “sports clubs, general interest groups, and a social committee. These structures create enormous amounts of friendship between different departments.”
Following the points above will ensure you have the best start in keeping your culture intact as your company grows. Just remember there will always be shifts in the company culture as time moves on but the idea is to keep a constant eye on it and keep it in check whenever needed.