No matter which way you look at it, we live in a competitive marketplace. Whether we’re dealing with brands competing for customer attention by cutting prices and building relationships, or companies competing with each other for top talent, it’s undoubtedly a dog-eat-dog world out there.
As a result, companies are having to work harder and harder to create a distinction between themselves and their competitors. And business leaders across the world agree that company culture is a great way to do this.
The Value of Company Culture
Not only does culture help you win over customers—it makes your branding more authentic and effective—but most job seekers consider company culture as the most important factor when deciding about a job, turning culture into a tool for attracting the best and the brightest.
But the value of culture is far more tangible. John Kotter and James Heskett’s seminal 1992 book, Corporate Culture and Performance, demonstrates how a strong, specific and appropriate culture develops better bottom-line results. The culture you develop in the early days of your company is unique. It’s often what gives you chance against the heavy hitters in your industry, and as such, it’s essential you work to keep it a part of your company as you grow.
But culture is a hard thing to manage. If you’re not careful, it takes on a life of its own. And as you expand, it’s easy for your focus on company culture to dwindle. You may wind up with more managers than leaders, and this makes it hard to steer cultural change in the right direction.
So, here are some tips to help keep you zeroed in on this all-important aspect of your company.
Be Clear About Your Goals
Before you can accomplish anything, you need to visualize where you want to go. Although progress at times feels random, it is really the result of focused effort. So when talking about maintaining your culture as you grow, it’s important you be clear about the company’s future state.
Make sure you have a clearly defined vision and mission statement, and also make sure you’ve spent the time to outline your company’s core values, as these are the pillars around which you will build your company culture.
During this process, it’s important to identify areas where the company is not living up to expectations. If you claim to have a culture that values empowerment and community involvement, what are you doing to back these claims up? Do you have training programs in place that give people the tools to take control of their careers? And have you provided your employees with the resources they need to get involved in the community? Once you identify what it is you’d like to be, and what’s preventing you from being that, it’s a lot easier to make the right decisions about company culture moving forward.
Hire For the Right Reasons
It’s hard to understate the importance of hiring when it comes to cultural change. As your company grows, you’re going to need to add people to your staff. And no matter what you do, these people are going to have a profound impact on your company culture. They will bring with them their own set of experiences and beliefs, as well as ways of doing things, and this is going to influence your company. And the more you grow, the stronger this influence will be.
As a result, it’s important to make sure you get each and every hire correct. If you can’t find someone who is a perfect cultural fit, then consider other options besides expanding your workforce. For example, instead of expanding your HR department just because you need more hands on deck, consider working with a professional employer organization (PEO). This would allow you to continue your HR operations uninterrupted without having to bring in people who might not be the best cultural fit.
You’ll also want to make sure you communicate your company culture to job seekers. Since we know this is something people consider to be a top priority when searching for a new job, make sure they know what you’re all about. Include descriptions of company culture on job postings, social media accounts and your company website. This will help to attract the right people and repel those who won’t mesh well with company culture and, perhaps more importantly, push it in the right direction. This is the strategy Netflix used when it launched its now-famous culture deck, and it’s pretty safe to say it worked rather well.
Make Culture a Priority
Culture is a living thing. It’s constantly changing and evolving, and you and your employees play an active role in shaping what it is. As a result, to be able to grow without sacrificing culture, make sure everyone at the company knows it’s a top priority.
Hold regular meetings to discuss company culture and the ways in which it could be improved and expanded upon. And use your core values as guiding principles. If strong customer focus is one of your fundamental values, then make sure everything you do is in support of this ideal. And when you find things that aren’t helping you get to where you want to be, get everyone involved in finding a solution so that they understand the significance of what’s going on.
All of this starts with management. If you take culture seriously and push your employees to do the same, then people will follow suit. This ensures qualitative as well as quantitative growth, meaning expanding the company won’t only be about growing profits, but also cultural development.
The Challenge Starts Today
Managing company culture through periods of expansion is not easy. It will make the already stressful job of running a growing business just a bit more hectic. But if you keep these points in mind and don’t lose sight of the end goal, then it’s well within your reach to not only maintain your culture as you grow, but turn it into a true competitive edge.
About the Author: Jock Purtle is the founder of Digital Exits. He has been an internet entrepreneur since the early days of his career, launching his first business when he was just 19-years-old. Nowadays, he works with both business owners and investors to help broker mergers and acquisitions plus he advises on business growth.