If, like us, you listen to successful business leaders speaking at events and conferences, then there's more than a passing chance they will make a reference to a great company culture.
Every organisation has its own unique culture, even if it isn’t aware of it. It’s a set of values and behaviours that have a profound effect on how it operates, how individuals within it interact with one another, how people are motivated, and ultimately on its success or failure.
While no two organisations are exactly alike, those with similar purposes and strategies do tend to share elements of the same ethos. For example military organisations, whose purpose has led them to share a culture of command and control; something which fits with their rigid hierarches and communication structures and helps them to achieve their goals the world over.
To scale-up, modern businesses typically need philosophies diametrically opposite in many ways from the military and other large organisations. Flexibility and the empowerment of employees through strong, two-way communications and the delegation of responsibilities are common principals of many successful enterprises.
The ability of their leaders to communicate the company’s vision and values to employees at every level is critical to this; and having employees buy into it is another commonality.
By making it clear to everyone where the company is going and what their specific role in achieving this is, business leaders can simultaneously motivate their staff and make sure that the company culture they want is propagated at all levels.
At the recent Entrepreneurs’ Forum’s Together We Can Take on the World’ conference, Sarah Wood, CEO and co-founder of viral video tech company Unruly, told the region’s entrepreneurs: “Communication is one of the most important things to master as you are scaling up. You never want your team to feel like they’re being left behind, so to keep our Unrulies’ in the loop we practice extreme communications. Our philosophy is to share the love. We’d rather overshare than under-share.”
In a fast growing business, where the needs of the company will undoubtedly evolve as it grows, its culture will change at the same time.
As part of their role in managing change, it falls upon the leaders of a business to shape its culture as it grows. By managing this correctly, through effective internal communications, a company’s growing pains can be kept to a minimum.
A supportive company culture can be helpful when it comes to hiring and retaining the right people. One of the biggest challenges facing growing businesses today is the skills gap. When surveyed North East entrepreneurs consistently rate finding people with the skills they need as the number one challenge that stifles business growth. Beyond their immediate need of a certain salary, people are more often than not looking for employment where they feel valued.
Much in the way prospective employees do, potential customers also evaluate companies’ values and cultures. For some customers this is a conscious process, where they actively look to do business with enterprises that share their world view, while others can make a much more subconscious value judgement. Because of this, companies with strong values and a positive culture can make these an integral part of their promotional message, though this cannot be done by half, customers will quickly see through any attempt to pull the wool over their eyes.
Fostering a growth-friendly company culture may seem like a distraction to an entrepreneur who is working hard in their business, but as any good mentor will tell them, it is important to take a step back occasionally to work on the business.
There is no magic formula for great company culture, but the first step, as Virgin founder Sir Richard Branson advises, is “to treat your staff how you would like to be treated” as that is the way they will treat each other and your customers.
The Entrepreneurs' Forum support more than 300 aspirational North East business owners in all sectors, helping to expand their networks, improve leadership skills, share experience, create new opportunities and grow their business. For more information call 0191 500 7780 or visit www.entrepreneursforum.net