Focused on Culture

A few weeks back, I had the privilege of speaking to a great group of IT service company owners at Kaseya Connect in Las Vegas. My talk was titled “Branding Your Companies Unique DNA” (if you’re interested, you can download the simple slide deck here).

Over the past couple of weeks, some of the content has sort of settled in and I wanted to take an opportunity over the next few posts to address some of the questions that were asked at the end of my talk and in the hallways after.

One of my points in the talk was about how company culture is very much a part of your brand, which brought up a great question: “How do you retain culture as you become a bigger company?”

As I thought about this question a bit deeper, I came up with a few pointers based on what I’ve seen in the marketplace, mainly as I’ve witnessed with some of my favorite clients and how they lead the companies that they own.

1. Share your vision
Even when your company is growing, you can still share your vision for the future and keep your staff in the loop. This can be hard if you’re growing at a quick pace and your schedule is always full, but I think at least once a quarter, you should rally people together either in person or virtually and share how things are going from a top level. Show them that you have vision and that you understand where your business is and where it’s going.

You might also start an internal blog or email chain where you can talk candidly about things that are happening in the business. This could be especially helpful if you are larger than 25 in staff or running a company with multiple locations.

Either way, people want a leader that has vision. If you have goals for the company, share them with everyone. If you’re working with a new business consultant to better the company, introduce that person to your staff. If you’re working on a new product, let everyone know (not just the sales staff).

We all need to be a part of something big. So, let your people know how deeply you care about them and the future of the company.

2. Go to the front lines
I think back to the days of knights and swords when kings used to lead armies into war. Think about how much different our world would be now if this was still the case. A staff loves a leader that is willing to charge to the front lines with them. If you as a company owner are still willing to go to the front lines, that will inspire your people. It shows that you are in the trenches with them, even if only for a little bit. When was the last time you went out on a sales call? Or took a customer service phone call? Or helped clean up after an office party? When you as a leader show that you are happy to get your hands dirty, you give your company a sense of togetherness. Don’t just stop with you, though. Encourage your managers to get in the trenches with your people too.

3. Share time
I know someone that used to put together a team of walkers for the Race For The Cure event every year. They would invite staff, clients and vendors to participate in the event together and they provided a cool t-shirt for everyone involved. Whether it’s participating in a charitable event or having a quarterly company lunch, you should make a conscious effort to do things together as a staff. Ask your staff for suggestions; maybe they’re already involved with a charity that you can volunteer with. Making an effort to spend time together takes time and resources, yes, but your brand culture will thank you for it. And if you can involve clients, even better.

Some final thoughts …

Study companies that have gone before you, and ask your colleagues and fellow business owners what they do to build their culture. Read books about great companies (“Delivering Happiness” by Tony Hsieh is a great one to start with). Also, ask your marketing people for ideas on how to engage staff. I’ve played part in a few fun internal campaigns with the sole purpose of building some excitement amongst a company’s staff.

One culture caveat: while I haven’t seen it happen very often, it is possible to completely ignore common sense and your company’s financial health for the sake of culture. Like anything, you can swing the pendulum too far the other way. But I believe you can have culture and make money, no matter the size of your company.

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