Having a strong and appropriate company culture can give you a big competitive advantage. It helps improve efficiency, and it makes it easier to recruit the right people to make your company grow.
But culture is tricky. It develops on its own, yet with guidance, it can be steered in one direction or another.
As your company expands, the culture you have will change. But this change does not have to be negative. If you can harness the transformation, you can not only preserve your company culture, but you can nurture it to become a real competitive edge.
Here are some things to consider to help you maintain a positive company culture as you scale up:
Know the culture you want to have
Nothing will happen that we don’t envision. As your company grows and takes on new people and new practices, you can encourage it to be one thing over another. But to be successful with this, you need to first have direction.
Ask yourself what your ideal company culture would be. Have a good idea as to what people would be like, how they would act, how they view the work your company does.
If you begin with a vision for where you want to go, it’ll be easier to get there. It’ll be easier to find the right team members to help this culture grow, and you’ll do better at devising systems and policies that reflect the type of culture you want to have.
It’s also important to understand what you would like to get rid of. To end up with a positive company culture, you need to work on some of the negative aspects of what you do and turn them into positives.
Ask yourself where you think you’re falling short, and what do you need to turn things around. This way, as you do grow, you’ll not only be strengthening the positive parts of your culture, but you’ll be doing the same to areas of weakness.
Pay attention to culture when hiring
Finding the right people is always a top priority. It’s the people who ultimately make your company what it is today and what it will be tomorrow.
Once you have a clearer understanding of what you’re looking to do, use your hiring process to help attract the right people and repel the wrong. Start by making it very clear who you are. Make sure job postings are descriptive and reflective of your culture, and use social media to promote your employer brand. The Netflix culture deck is a great example of this, and it proved to be very successful in helping Netflix become what it is today.
When you bring people in for interviews, ask them questions that will help you determine if the culture fit would be right. For example, if you’re running a camping equipment store, you, for example, might be hoping to build a culture focused on promoting a good work-life balance.
It would be reasonable to ask candidates questions about work-life balance itself, as well as what some of their hobbies and personal interests are.
Depending on their answers, you can get a good idea as to how this person would help your culture grow; too different and there will be dissonance, but too similar and there won’t be progress.
Tie culture and branding
Your brand is what people think of your company; it’s your identity and personality. Culture is a set of norms that help govern how people act.
Culture and branding are bound to be different. However, if you want to preserve a positive company culture as you grow, try your best to tie the two together.
To return to the example of the camping supply store, to support your culture focused on work-life balance, you could position yourself to customers as a down-to-earth company that cares about the environment.
This helps culture because, for your company, to project that brand image, you need that culture. And vice versa. The two are unique to you, and they work in harmony to make both your brand and culture more authentic.
Never forget who you are
If you start with a clear focus, and make culture a priority, you’ll find it rather easy to preserve your positive company culture as you grow.
Allow change to come. Don’t resist it. Yet morph with it while staying true to your core principles. You’ll find yourself simultaneously changing but staying the same, giving you a real competitive edge and a way of transforming your business.
About the author:
Raj is the founder of JavaPresse, a specialty coffee subscription service that delivers premium, freshly roasted coffee to people’s door every two-four weeks. He built his company because he wanted to show people how coffee could be a way of expressing gratitude. In this process, he’s learned a lot about culture, branding and marketing, and he’s still learning more every day. He likes to write about his experiences to contribute to the vibrant online entrepreneur community.
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