“Business culture,” sometimes called “corporate culture,” can come across as a meaningless buzzword only employed during pep talk business meetings. It sounds more like corporate nonsense than anything helpful, much less vital, for a business. But as it turns out, business culture, meaning the shared values and practices among individuals in a business, is absolutely crucial to the health of any business. According to research, up to half of the difference in operating profits between companies is due to business culture. And profit isn’t the only aspect it affects: it can be responsible for lower turnover, higher productivity, better relationships with customers, and all of the improvements that can be the result of these facets.
If business culture is so important, then, it only makes sense to take charge of it and make it as beneficial to you as possible. Take a look at your business’s current culture. How do the people on your team work together and interact? What makes your company unique? Are there any traditions your company holds or other ways people connect? This is your current business culture.
A strong business culture is one that is consciously shaped by business owners. Now that you’ve taken stock of your business’s current culture, take some time to reflect on what about it is beneficial and what is less so. What pieces would you like to keep, and what would you like to improve? The first step to creating this new culture is to create a mission statement for your business, or, if you already have one, to revise it based on what you would like the company to look like. In a sentence or two, this should outline your business’s goals, philosophy, and unique characteristics. Other steps to develop and maintain your business culture should always come back to these ideas. Let this statement be the focal point of your business’s culture.
To make this mission statement and its resulting culture authentic and appropriate for your business, make sure that you’re not the only one making these decisions. Involve people on all levels of your team to contribute ideas, criticism, and possibilities. A business culture should arise organically and genuinely from who you are and who your company is. You won’t get an idea of what it should be without involving the other elements of your business. Find out what matters to the people you work with and what motivates them. What about the company is important to them? This will give you a fresh and more well-rounded perspective on what makes your company, and the people who work in it, unique.
When you’ve arrived at a mission statement that you and the people in your business are happy with, it’s time to actively use it to shape your business culture. You can start small. To involve everyone on your team in the culture you want to create, start some company rituals to connect everyone. These can take plenty of different forms: whether it’s Friday pizza lunch, crazy stories you always tell at training, or another tradition, just make sure it’s something that involves everyone and reflects the culture you and your mission statement are trying to create. Company rituals, even if they’re small, are a great way to connect everyone to the mission and ideals of your company.
Rituals are a good way to start, but once you’ve really established the business culture you want your company to maintain, it should begin to show in everything you do. From your workspace to your marketing materials to the way you interact with clients, you should incorporate your business culture across the board. This is why it’s so important to make sure that the culture you want to create is appropriate to you and everyone else involved: it should be a culture you’re comfortable working with in every situation.
In addition, give your employees a stake in the culture. Ask what they think they can contribute to the culture and to the work of the company, and hold them accountable. Give them room to grow their own ideas within the border of the mission statement and surrounding culture. The more your employees are connected to the goals of the business and the more they hold a stake in its success, the more successful your business culture will be.
Business culture is also something you should keep in mind when hiring new people. Make sure your new team members fit the business culture you’re creating or maintaining. If your business is creative, flexible, and a little wacky, and you hire someone who’s very experienced but is also very uptight, you and your new employee are both going to be uncomfortable.
That being said, don’t be afraid to adjust your mission statement and your company’s culture if they seem to no longer fit. Every business evolves over time, and the culture you set out to create at the company’s onset may no longer be applicable down the road. Be flexible and willing to check in on how it’s working, but when you do make decisions, make them strongly. The key to a strong business culture is to follow through on the ideals, values, traditions, and goals that you decide make your business unique.
Nathan Jansch is owner and president of The Boardroom Executive Suites in Denver, Colo., which provides office space, virtual office services, conference room rentals, telephone answering, and other services and amenities to small and medium sized businesses. To compare executive suites to traditional office space or subleases, visit the Boardroom Executive Suites website. Read the Denver Office News blog for helpful business news and advice, financial and real estate news, and working green tips.