Culture is the values, beliefs and methods of operation that drive revenue, create employee engagement and attract and retain only a business owner’s favorite and most profitable kinds of customers. It is the essence of how business is done. It is the way a business operates to contribute to the bottom line.
Some business owners mistakenly think culture is an intangible piece of business, or an expensive venture to make employees more productive. Often, we hear about businesses with a great company culture as providing ice cream days or video games in the break room. This is one kind of culture, but not necessarily one that all businesses should or want to adopt.
At its core, culture is simply alignment. Managers often hire people based on what they can do, and fire them for who they are. Who they are speaks directly to a shared belief system. If attitudes are shared, they connect. If not, they will disconnect. Businesses also have ideal customers and clients. Ideal clients speaks to shared values. These clients appreciate certain things the business provides them, which makes the relationship enjoyable, profitable and long-lasting.
Understanding and Measuring Culture
Businesses often fail to understand how to measure their culture. When company culture isn’t measured, it cannot be described to others, creating potential missed opportunities of attracting great employees and clients. Whether the business is a solopreneur, a multi-million-dollar enterprise or somewhere between, it has a company culture. It is already in place, whether intentional or not. It is important to define the company culture a business has and is aspiring to create. Doing so will drive employee engagement around its purpose, help attract the right kind of employees, help prospects understand why they should choose the company and allow current customers to realize and appreciate why they will never leave.
Surveys and Assessments
When used properly, employee surveys and excellent personal assessment tools can uncover what a company values overall. By utilizing these resources, leaders often discover why their top performers are performing well and why underachievers are not delivering results. The results of surveys and assessments will also bring understanding to why a business’ favorite clients work so well with the organization, while others are more difficult to work with. People just see the world differently and want to work with those who are like-minded. It’s human nature and will show up in employees and customers alike.
If a business doesn’t choose assessment tools to uncover its current culture, here are some suggested questions to ask to help reveal it:
- Who are our favorite clients? Why do we like them?
- Which traits do our favorite, longest-lasting employees share?
- Are there different traits to recognize between favorite and top-performing employees?
- What would our clients say we do? (Note: this is often different than what the business thinks it does.)
- What would our favorite clients say they love about us?
- What would our employees tell a friend about our company?
- If you met a person who said they have heard of your company, what would they say about you?
- What are the values the business owner and management team share?
Create Sustained Business Results
Once a business is clear about its culture, it is important to continue building or making changes to it. The key is to create alignment inside and outside the organization as to what the company stands for and delivers. A few tangible results of developing a great culture include the following.
- Great internal relationships that contribute to easier, more streamlined workflow and less stress;
- Long-term, engaged and productive employees;
- Higher-quality candidates who want to be a part of the organization;
- Better clientele who feel connected to the business, stay longer, use more products and services and are easier to work with; and
- More ideal prospects who understand the business’ value proposition and are willing to pay for it.
Here’s how to get started.
1. Start internally by driving the desired company culture home through repetition.
Make it your mantra. It should be shared with all employees regularly. Some successful companies start each meeting by reading their five to 10 values statements so everyone hears them often. Businesses with strong company cultures are also sure that all ventures and new endeavors align with these values.
2. Communicate these values to the community through all marketing messaging.
Clients and prospective clients want to know what a business stands for as much or more than the solutions offered. There are some old business adages that still hold true, including that people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care and people buy from people they know, like and trust. A business has an advantage if it can clearly articulate what it cares about, what it believes in and how it intends to make an impact—beyond selling its product or service.
Taking the time to understand, measure and develop your company culture is worth the effort and will pay dividends for years to come.