Adam Stott is an entrepreneur, author, business coach and founder of Big Business Events.
Regardless of what kind of business you have — small, multi-national, coaching or a consultancy — a great culture can make a big difference in your success.
Why is culture so important? If you don’t create one, you will find very quickly that your employees will do it for you — which can sometimes be a problem. When people start working for you, they often test the water to see if there is a defined line. They may not do their best work, they might try to make their own hours or even try to take more time by calling off work.
Your culture, if it’s written and documented, will allow you to manage what you expect of your employees. You will have an actual guide on what behavior and actions are accepted — and what is not. The culture you develop can ensure that good behavior is rewarded and recognized while bad behavior is not. Culture helps people make decisions that benefit the business and the people around them.
Developing a culture is important regardless of your business’s size. Even if your business only consists of you, you should think about creating culture now. You’re going to grow, and you’ll want to have it in place.
Larger businesses can’t operate without one — think of a company like Disney. It has a few hundred thousand employees who all understand their job. They create magical moments for the people visiting their theme parks, coming into their stores and watching their films. The moments don’t happen by accident. They have a well-documented culture that defines acceptable and unacceptable behavior — as well as the mission and vision of the company.
If everyone in your business was thinking about the same goal — your own version of a magical moment — what impact do you think that would have on your repeat business and referrals?
One of my clients had an employee with great potential who was leaving the office early and only putting in half the effort he should. My client was very frustrated, but he didn’t have a culture that defined what he expected from his team. When he put one in place, this employee better understood expectations — and how his actions affected the growth of the business.
At my company, our culture is all about what we can do for our clients. It says that the more successful our clients are, the more successful we are. That means that my team is looking out for opportunities to help our clients and to really do everything within our power to cultivate great results for them. When people come to our live events, they can see our company culture first hand. They feel the fantastic atmosphere our culture brings out in our people and our clients.
Make A Mission Statement
The best way to start building your business culture is by developing a mission statement. This document should outline exactly what you want to achieve for your business in the next 12 months. I’m often asked why we focus on the next year and not the next two or three. The answer is because business moves fast. Things change, people change and the direction of the business often changes.
Write out your mission statement now and plan to revise it every 12 months. It should simply say: This is where we are, this is where we are going and these are the results we want to achieve. Your desired results may be based around your clients, specific sales numbers or the growth of your business. Whatever it might be, you will have a document that pulls everyone in the same direction so you can create a unity of purpose.
Define Your Values
Next, what are the core values that are vital to your business? Core values set boundaries in your business and let people know what lines not to cross — and what actions are validated and promoted.
A good place to start is writing down five things you don’t want to see going on in your business. Once you have them, build some core values around those issues. For example, let’s say you hate it when clients are not replied to within a certain period of time, or that you don’t like it when people leave for the day without cleaning up their desk. To turn those into core values, you can say, “We always return calls and respond to emails within 24 hours” and “We maintain a tidy workplace because it projects our professionalism.” Some other core values you might want to consider are caring, teamwork, respect, ambition, ownership, innovation, hard work, honesty and integrity.
I had an issue in one of my businesses where a lot of people were calling out of work, so I created a core value around the issue. Instead of addressing only this problem, I made it more encompassing. The value I created was: We never let our teammates down. If people are constantly calling out of work, then someone else is going to have to cover their work, which means they are letting their team down.
Once you have your values in place, write them down and discuss them with your team. Everyone should have a copy of the values and they should understand what they mean. You’ll need to remind people about them on a regular basis and make sure that you follow them as well.
If your team doesn’t think you care about the values, they won’t either. It’s also important that you incorporate your values into everything you do. For example, if one of your values is “We respect everyone’s time,” then that value should mean that everyone shows up to work on time, that you don’t leave your colleagues waiting for a response from you and that you start and end meetings at the designated times.
Your workplace culture can have a big impact on the success of your business. It’s important to define it early on — even if you’re a team of one — to ensure your employees don’t make it themselves. By creating a mission statement and defining your values, culture can start to come together and guide your business forward.
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