What is Your Culture?
Company culture isn’t just relevant to large corporations. It is also relevant for small businesses. Do you have at least one other person working with or for you? If so, company culture matters for your business.
(We could even argue that a sole trader or individual freelancer can have a “business culture,” because it pertains not just to how employees are treated but to how customers and the general public view the business.)
How would you define your company culture? Try to sum it up in five words or less. Common words used to describe company cultures include terms like casual, formal, collaborative, warm, risk-taking, and honest. On the more negative side, the word toxic is used a lot, but more descriptive words to describe a poor company culture might include boring, unethical, stressful, or unsupportive.
Netflix defines its culture with a simple three-word slogan: “people over process.” Digital marketing giant Hubspot has an entire Culture Code, featuring philosophies such as “influence should be independent of hierarchy” and “we’d rather be failing frequently than never trying.” Michael tells me that Teambuilding’s culture values include “operate at level 10 integrity” and “feedback first.” What’s the equivalent for your business?
As you try to identify your current company culture, be brutally honest with yourself. As the bosses at Brewdog discovered to their detriment, you can’t magic a good culture into being just by pretending it exists. Gustavo Razzetti at Fearless Culture writes:
“Today, organizations are being scrutinized and becoming more transparent – most by accident, some by design. Unhappy customers or disgruntled employees can turn your story upside down. And, if you pretend to be perfect and your culture is not, it will spread like wildfire on social media.”
If something is off with your culture, it’s better to acknowledge that so you can improve upon it.
Can Culture Be Changed?
What if the culture at your business isn’t what you’d like it to be? Don’t panic—company culture can be changed. It won’t happen overnight but, with consistent work and buy-in from everyone in your team, you can start to shift your company culture in a more positive direction.
To change your culture, start with your values. What is your business all about and what does it believe in? Next, create concrete and specific plans for how you and your employees will live up to those values. The clearer you can be, the better.
Michael says, “Our values can be heuristics for decision making. For example, everyone at Teambuilding knows that if you are faced with a decision, to always choose the highest integrity option.” He explains that values make it clear what you prioritize and stand for.