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My business, my culture

My business, my culture

So, your dream, your business is an extension of you and your values or is it?  When you went into business and started to build out your team or employees, did you think carefully about the kind of people that you brought in to help you grow your business or did you simply higher the person(s) who had the skills you were looking for?  Culture is one of those things that unless you are an anthropologist you’re not likely going to be able to define very well except in generalities. As a business owner or manager, you better actively create your culture or the culture of your employees or team members will define your business or team and that could have harmful effects for your business in the future.

Your business should be an extension of your values, your work ethic and your passions.  If you never have taken the time to sit down and write out what kind of work place culture you want your business or team to have, you need to do this exercise soon.  A great way to do this exercise if you need a push or some guidance to get started is to start a list of how you think others think of you.  This is not a time to be super critical and to document all of your short falls.  This list is should be a list of why people want be around you and why people come to you for your goods and services.  Your list could look a little like this one below:

People like me or want to do business with me because:

  • I am punctual with my time commitments
  • I under promise and over deliver
  • I keep negative comments about others to myself
  • I take the chance to pick up the lunch tab every so often
  • I am always learning and sharing what I am learning with others

From this list above, you should be able to attach attributes to each of these items and be able to start to wrap your arms around what you want your business to be like and known for.    Along with the soft attributes listed above, I suggest to my clients that they also put on their Fortune 500 thinking caps and be intentional about bringing in some of the best attributes of those companies.  Some of the attributes you might consider are execution (we get things done), leadership development (we actively build up the next generation of leadership), open communication with employees (this goes beyond the occasional team meeting but stops before you completely open your books to your high school part time team member)

At this point after these two exercises are complete, I advise people to combine the lists and work to keep the list to about 10 items.  There are two reasons for this, the exercise is intended to make you aware of what kind of culture you want your business to have and secondly as a business leader, you should not completely box yourself in because of a list that may need to be adjusted as your business expands.

Now a word to the business owners who only have one employee, do this exercise as well.  What you will find is that as you create your definition of your culture, this acts starts to act similar to a mission statement.  Your cultural definition acts as a check point of not only what you will and will not do (mission statement) but how you will do your work and how you will interact with vendors, customers and anyone else you might interact with as part of your business.

If you do sit down and spend some time working defining your culture, you will have a great understanding of the type of employees you want to hire and retain and your employees will know from the first day they start what the formal (policies and procedures) and informal (culture) expectations are.

Now get to it and spend some time this week to sit down, think about and write down the kind of culture you want your business to be known for as well as the culture you want your employees to enjoy and thrive in.

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