Culture plays a large part in business, even if it doesn’t seem evident at first.
You’ve probably heard tales of the corporate cultures at companies like Apple or SpaceX, places where they go out of their way to make sure that all of their employees are more than just another employee number. It’s not just multi-billion-dollar companies that benefit from having a positive culture, however.
Whether you work on establishing it or not, your small business will have a culture. Think about places that you’ve worked in the past, before you started your business… are there any that you absolutely loved? What about jobs that you hated? What were the other employees like there? If you really stop to think about it, you might find that a lot of the other employees had similar feelings to yours. This is why thinking about your small business culture is more important than you might think.
Evaluating Your Business Culture
So what is the culture of your small business like? It’s entirely possible that you don’t actually know.
Luckily for you, it’s not difficult to find out. Most of the time you can get an approximation of your business’ culture simply by keeping your eyes and ears open during the workday. Pay attention to how employees interact with each other, how they interact with managers and whether there seems to be a general feeling of wellbeing, indifference or even malice as they days go by. Don’t make judgments based on a single day, since it could be off from the norm; instead, spend days or weeks trying to get a feel for it.
Of course, not everyone will act like themselves around the boss. If you’re worried about this, consider doing more direct data collection. Anonymous surveys could give you valuable information, and there’s something to be said for having a few trusted employees that you can talk to in private about your company’s culture. Regardless of how you get your data, the big question is what you’re going to do with it… especially if it tells a story about your business that you don’t want to hear.
If you work at it, you can control the culture of your business to give your employees specific kinds of experiences while working for you. If you don’t, the culture will develop on its own based on the interactions of your employees and your management team. This can be a great thing if you have a solid team, but it can also be bad if you have employees (and even managers) with an “us vs. them” mentality. That’s not the sort of culture you want to develop in your small business.
Fortunately, the culture of your business is constantly developing. Even if you don’t have the culture that you want right now, it’s possible to turn things around. The amount of work required depends on how far from your ideal you currently are, but just about anything is possible when it comes to getting the culture you want.
Shaping and Reshaping Your Business Culture
There are a few things that you can do to shape (or reshape) the culture of your business. The biggest comes in identifying the high points and low points of your company culture and taking steps to promote or reduce them respectively. This could mean giving raises based on positive criteria, or it could mean cracking down on unwanted behavior within the company. You want to reward the positive aspects of your company’s culture and make the negative aspects unattractive so employees won’t want to go there.
You should also keep the culture you want in mind when hiring new employees. Hire those who seem like they’d fit in naturally in that culture and see if they can help you to shape it. Punish or let go employees who refuse to change, especially if they’re holding on to bad habits that interfere with your business operations. It may take time, but you’ll eventually get there.