These days, most small businesses start out as disrupters. Some of their founders want to conduct business in a different way; others want consumers to have a richer experience. There are also those who have a very distinct or innovative idea about what they want to do in their respective industries. Whether they know it or not, they’re creating their own culture in the process.
For me, I wanted several things in our company culture. I wanted to create a culture where everyone felt valued, where there was no shame or blame, and where everyone was encouraged to be their own best self. I wanted this for my employees, my partners, and my customers — let alone myself.
As I started down the journey of learning what it took to put an organization like this together, I learned a lot of things. One in particular resonates the most. As I went about building a culture, our company started attracting like-minded individuals. And over time, a certain shift started to take place.
Though each person who came into our organization had values similar to mine, they also brought their own set of values. As we grew, these people became part of the fabric of our organization, and we realized we needed to revisit our culture. Our culture needed to reflect the group’s values. In other words, a change in culture became a necessity.
Our company isn’t alone. It’ll happen to every, single organization at one time or another. You just need to understand how to approach the situation if you want it to be a smooth transition.
- Involve employees. It’s one thing to inform employees on cultural changes. It’s another to have complete buy-in into where the culture is going. Remember, you’ll be asking employees to live this culture eight hours a day, five days a week, so involve them in the process. Seek feedback. Conduct a survey or two. Weigh their insights and perceptions. Acceptance will come much faster when employees feel valued and engaged. As our employees became more engaged in the culture of our organization, they really became active participants in the shaping of this culture. They were proud of our company culture, and this pride led to a lot more referrals. They were more invested in the success of Fair & Square Remodeling.
- Start living the new culture yourself. If your culture is based on your values, it shouldn’t be too difficult to live the culture yourself. Dig deep and go beyond the traditional buzzwords, like collaboration or authenticity. It’ll make it much easier to apply this cultural shift to your work life. Then, start walking the walk (or talking the talk). You’ll improve employee engagement with your new culture. But don’t stop there. Make culture active by embedding it in everything you do as an organization. Our company, for example, holds idea pods, where a group of employees from different departments work through a particular problem or situation together.
- Give up some control. It may sound counterintuitive to relinquish your control of your company’s culture. But by letting go of what you personally want in your culture, you’ll actually able to create something that’s much bigger than yourself. When I gave up control, people brought in ideas that I hadn’t ever considered before, and our company is better for it.
- Monitor and correct. Getting culture to stick is no small feat. It takes a great deal of time, patience, and adjustments. As your company ages, you’ll watch it become a living and breathing thing — a thing that grows and changes. Because of this, you’ll need to continually monitor and adapt processes, practices, and culture. Don’t set anything in stone. That’s when you run the risk of becoming one of those companies so entrenched in the old ways that it’s next to impossible to innovate and inspire.
Inevitably, culture will cease belonging to the owner; it’ll rest in the hands of the entire staff. Having conversations with your employees provides the opportunity to weigh in on the direction of the company and its culture. As you start moving in that direction, it’ll also give everyone a sense of accomplishment, which isn’t a bad way to start the next phase of your business.