Recently, I had lunch with a friend, I’ll call him Ryan, who’s launched a high-tech start-up. Most of us would envy Ryan’s success. He easily raised nearly two million dollars in funding. He’s attracted a small team of outstanding employees. He’s landed a couple of major customers. But he confided to me that his biggest challenge was learning how to become a good leader and manager.
Ryan’s not alone. For small business owners, one of the toughest jobs is managing and motivating their staff. They struggle with what kind of leader to be: how to be both demanding and encouraging. If they’re thoughtful, they consider what kind of company “culture” they want to nurture.
Company culture is critical when it comes to an environment that elicits the best in employees—whether in large corporations or small businesses.
Think back to when you started your small business. What did you want to achieve? It’s probably something more than just making money. You probably had a vision of the kind of company you wanted to work in yourself—one where everyone enjoyed coming to work, worked hard, and showed dedication, but was treated with respect, maybe even had a little fun.
When many people think of a company’s culture, they think of things like whether employees are allowed to wear jeans or if the boss sometimes sends in free pizza. But your company’s corporate culture is less about superficial things than it is about what you and your business stand for—your business VALUES.
Having a great company culture:
1. Boosts employee loyalty
Employees who are a good fit with your culture are likely to be very loyal and satisfied, reducing employee turnover.
2. Helps recruiting efforts
What attracts the best new applicants? A business in which people feel good about going to work—a company with integrity, respect for all, and, perhaps, a reputation as a fun place to work.
3. Attracts customers
Much as your culture can attract new talent, it can also draw new customers. When you treat employees with respect, they treat customers with respect, and that keeps them coming back.
4. Drives decision-making
If you’ve cultivated a business culture that is committed to integrity and honesty, then you already have a framework in place for making decisions.
5. Establishes a positive community reputation
Having a positive corporate culture gives you a positive reputation in your community. You may not realize it, but the word gets out—to customers, vendors, fellow business owners—about how you run your business. When you are seen as a fair and decent employer—as well as a good businessperson—it enhances your reputation in your community.
When thinking about what kind of culture you want in your small business, consider:
- How much authority and responsibility will you give your employees?
- How frequently will they have to check with you before making their own decisions?
- Do you want to create a role for yourself as a traditional top-down boss or nurture a collaborative culture?
- How will you require employees to meet your standards while still giving them lee-way to use their own initiative?
- How can you encourage a sense of ownership and responsibility to your company?
- How and when will you acknowledge your employees for doing something right, encouraging them to take positive steps to improve your business?
- How will you reprimand or penalize them for doing something wrong?
Employees particularly value companies that are committed to personal, family, and social responsibility. Ways in your small business to show that your culture supports them in this include:
- Taking steps so that employees only have to work late or on weekends when really necessary for the business.
- Allowing parents reasonable time to take care of sick children.
- Implementing socially and environmentally responsible business practices.
- Matching employee contributions to their favorite charities (up to a certain amount).
Remember, how you treat your employees may be reflected in how they treat you and your business and what kind of contribution you make to society. If you treat them with respect, pay them fairly, and create a company culture t in which they can grow, you not only improve your business, you change your world forever.
Copyright, Rhonda Abrams, 2015
This article originally ran in USA Today on September 4, 2015