indicatorPeople and Culture

Nine ways to build a company around your culture

By ATB Financial 4 January 2021 3 min read

Company culture is an important part of any business. Whether you are a small company or a large enterprise, it can have an effect on productivity, profitability, employee retention and business growth. As a small business owner, here are a few ways you can focus on building company culture. 

1. Culture is so much bigger than me (and you).

In order to create an authentic culture, your team needs to play a large role in building it. It’s not about “This is me and my culture—do you fit?” Focus on working with (and for) the team that you’ve built. Start by looking at how people are performing and interacting with each other at work. Go a step further and ask how both performance and relationships can be supported and improved. Go one more step and ask how, together, you and your team can realize everyone’s dreams. 


2. Don’t hire based on resumes or cover letters.

Don’t even read them. Instead, sit down with a candidate and have a conversation, trying to see if they’re looking at the big picture and what your company is trying to do. Hire (and fire) based on commitment and engagement. You can usually teach the skills an employee is missing—what is really important is if they understand and believe in the vision. 


3. Spend time with your employees.

It might seem like the most obvious thing in the world, but if you want to get to know your new staff member, spend time with them. Whenever someone joins the team, pop a bottle of champagne and welcome them to the family. It’s really important that you take the time to share your story and get to know your new comrade. Go get coffee with them! Ask if they enjoy bowling! Out of office, one-on-one time can be the most valuable.


4. Learn how to motivate them.

The most important thing you can learn about your employees is how they are motivated and what’s important to them. Everyone is motivated by control, money, ownership, power, or recognition (or some combination of all five). Once you learn how someone is motivated, you’ll know how to get them excited about their projects and how to make them feel appreciated. 


5. Little gestures are important.

As a startup, you can’t always give someone a raise. So you have to be creative with how you show appreciation. Notes of encouragement/thanks/praise, tickets to a movie or a sports event, flowers, lunch—little gestures go so much further when you’re a small company and there’s a personal connection. 


6. Lead by example.

Say you need your showroom cleaned because you have someone coming for a facility tour. You have two options: You could tell someone to clean it or you could clean it yourself. When your people see you taking pride in where you work, they’ll want to do the same. When they see you’re not above performing the necessary grunt work, they won’t feel taken for granted. Before you know it, everyone will be pitching in. 


7. Be the leader, not the boss.

When you just tell people what to do, they don’t take ownership of their work. As a business owner, aim to be a servant leader. That means allowing your employees to initiate and plan their own projects. At the end of the day, your main job is to provide inspiration and resources so that everyone can do their job to the best of their ability. 


8. Make decisions as a group.

When it’s feasible, include your team in the decision making process. While this might very well result in you, the business owner, being out-voted, if you trust your team, you’ll be able to feel confident in the direction they want to take you. 


9. Trust your team.

If you have made good hiring decisions, you don’t need to micromanage your employees. Your culture will be so much stronger if you trust that they will get the work done without you standing by the clock. If someone is up late with their kid, they will be much more productive if they’re not stressed out over trying to make it in by eight the next morning. Trust that they will make up the time because they take ownership over their projects and products. 

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