If you have a business that has employees your most important job is maintaining your culture. If you do that all the other stuff will begin to fall into place.
I am not just talking about being nice to everyone either. Culture is much more than that. It is the entire feeling of your business. How everyone looks at everyone else and what they expect to happen.
Before you can defend your culture, you have to define your culture.
You must be able to clearly define exactly what you want the feeling of your business to be. Our culture is based on respect and responsibility for staff and customers. Yours may be the same or different, but you have to know what it is and be able to clearly communicate it to your employees.
When we started Elements we wanted to make sure it was a place that people liked coming to work. We wanted to create an environment of mutual respect and responsibility. Some place where people knew what to expect from co-workers, clients and the owners.
The culture of your business must be guarded with everything you have.
You don’t have to make everyone fit into some sort of mold. Diversity can and should be part of the workplace culture, but it is very important that everyone understands they are part of something bigger than themselves. Gary Vaynerchuck said in one of his shows (if you are not watching or reading any of his stuff I highly recommend it as a business owner/operator) that the most important thing for an employee of Vayner Media to do is play nice with the other staff. He didn’t say they had to be the best at social media marketing…that can be taught…they have to be a good team member.
This can be more challenging in a business where employees have one on one contact with clients and feel like they are the ones the client is coming to see or working with specifically.
In our case at Elements we have to remind our staff that a visit to our studio is made up of many parts-a phone call to schedule the appointment, the confirmation of the appointment, the greeting when the client first arrives, the massage itself, and the checkout procedure. Our experience could involve upwards of five different staff members.
That number is much higher at the golf course according to studies. It is estimated that a person at our golf facility will have 25-35 staff encounters during the course of their round of golf. That means that we all have to do our part to make the experience what it should be.
As the owner you have to watch for shifts in culture, for things that seem out of the ordinary or someone trying to set themselves above the group. There will always be natural leaders and if you find some of those in your staff its great, but they have to operate within the culture you have created if they are going to work out. Leading within the company culture is great, leading by becoming above the culture/law is not ok and needs to be dealt with quickly.
Creation of culture doesn’t come from telling people what it is, it comes from showing people what it is.
If you say one thing and another happens don’t be surprised when you have a culture shift on your hands. If you walk the walk, you don’t have to talk the talk. In other words, people do what people see as my coach Tommy Richardson likes to say. If you want things done a certain way it has to start with you.
Respond to questions and concerns as a person first and a business owner second.
Don’t get me wrong, you have to wear both hats, and leaving either one of them out will cause you problems. If you only act like their friend you will get run over down the road and everything will suffer. But if you act only like the cold, numbers driven, “Where are your TPS reports” business guy your staff isn’t going to be willing to help you out when you need it because they won’t feel heard and respected as an individual. They will feel like they are just a number and a great thing about small business is that no one has to feel like that.
It is also important to create a culture of support.
When someone does something good you should tell them and the rest of the team. If you show outward support for successes they will too. And nothing can elevate a team faster than mutual support from everyone.
Be willing to get rid of someone if they are unwilling or unable to be a positive part of the culture.
Even if they are great at their job. Put culture over performance (unless your culture is that performance is the only thing that matters…). You can train and teach performance, but someone who doesn’t hold the company’s viewpoints on what the environment should be has to go. This may seem harsh and cold, but I can tell you first hand that keeping someone around too long because you are scared to lose them will cost you more in the end. We kept an employee on longer than we should have and it ended up costing us other employees-ones we would have liked to stay. But the shift in culture drove them to find somewhere else to work, and by the time we realized it needed to be fixed it was too late.
It can be tempting to let some other things get ahead of the culture of your business, but don’t let it slide. Everything else you want to accomplish revolves around this one thing. If you keep the company culture where it should be completing other tasks and conquering big goals will be much easier. If your culture is messed up you will have all uphill battles on your hands, if you have a good culture there will be far less battles and everyone will be moving in the same direction.
To defend your culture you must first define it.
Write it down. Tell people in your business as well as people outside of it to make sure you can easily articulate it. If you can easily and clearly define it you can defend it.