Your small business has a company culture whether you know it or not. Here’s how to create a company culture that results in happy, engaged employees and customers.
Almost everyone has been adversely affected by the economic challenges over the past decade. Some of us have lost our jobs, houses, retirement or at least know someone personally who has. People are tired of it and won’t put up with it anymore, at least for long. We now have many more choices of where we can work, who we give our money to and where we buy things. This is the Information Age, where transparency governs everything, and word of mouth helps us decide on how we spend and what companies to support.
Today, companies are free to sell or deliver most anything, and their Culture is usually based solely on that. But to ensure success, Culture also needs to be structured to align with the wants, needs and demands of its employees and customers. Companies need to be transparent in “What” they do and “Why” they do it to attract and retain people, and they must also treat employees and customers like they matter.
So if you want a company that attracts and retains loyal employees and customers, is successful and will stand the test of time, creating your Own Unique Culture is priority # 1.
Unique Culture, in a nutshell
Having a unique Culture is the most important factor in business. When done right, it will become part of your DNA and it will attract both loyal employees and customers, allowing the employees and the company to be empowered and grow.
The challenge is that articulating “Culture” within a business, in and of itself is kind of “sqwooshy”. Companies attempt to do many things to create a Culture, but the anticipated positive effects are not always realized because the structure that will create the Culture is, most often, the missing piece.
Keep in mind, that within all companies, there is already a Culture, it may not be what is wanted, and many times, the Culture is created by default. So if you want to create your own Unique Culture that will help empower your employees and drive your company to success, transforming the Culture you already have is a great place to start.
Creating Your Own Unique Culture
Step 1: Vision
Create a compelling Vision. Within all companies, groups of people need to know “What” they are doing or delivering. Once they know the “What”, all thoughts, decisions and actions can be aligned to it. This will help in creation, re-invention and be crucial for your employees to find the best way to do things, which needs to evolve over time, and be a guiding light or “North Star” to follow and help guide.
With the right Vision, management doesn’t need to tell the employees what to do, as they already know what needs to be done – which helps minimize management and allow for employee autonomy. The Vision needs to be the “What” you are doing or delivering that will also attract the employees that want to create it, and the customers that want to buy it…and shouldn’t limit the future offering of the business.
And do your best to make your Vision short, memorable and repeatable, as long or confusing paragraphs cannot guide thoughts, decisions or actions of the employees, mostly because they can’t remember or repeat it – which is one of the most common mistakes made in creating a great and compelling Vision.
PS. Dump your Mission Statements, as they are the “How”. You don’t need tell employees the “How”, once they know the “What”, contained in the Vision, they will create the “How”.
Step 2: Purpose
Everyone needs a Purpose in their lives, and just as true in businesses. The Purpose is the “Why” you are doing what you are doing. If your company’s Purpose is only about making money, employees won’t stand behind it for long. If the Purpose is compelling enough and gives them a great reason to work at your company, it will attract passionate employees that want to fulfill your company’s Purpose.
If you create your Purpose that will be, or can be, a benefit to humankind, not just benefiting your company, you will not only attract employees, but retain them as well, which will produce the same affect with your customers.
Make sure you also make your Purpose short, memorable and repeatable, just like your Vision otherwise your Purpose won’t be remembered or repeated and won’t give a concise reason for employees to work with your company or a reason to stay.
Step 3: Business Model
Take a good, long look at your Business Model. Is it in alignment with the wants, needs and demands of the customer? Is it aligned with all the possibilities and opportunities that the Information Age has to offer?
For most companies, the Business Models are stuck in the past and has not evolved. Here’s an interesting fact: The lifespan of an S & P company a generation ago was 50 years. Today the lifespan of an S & P company is 25 years and shrinking. Companies are “dying” at an unprecedented rate, and many times, it has to do with the Business Model not evolving with the times.
Today, in the Information Age, people have all the information they need, at their fingertips – on the Internet. They make their own choices and decisions of who to work with and who they buy from. They no longer want to be “sold”, have binding contracts or want to be stuck with their purchases, by way of poor return policies.
The “middle person” is going away in every area of business. Most of us don’t use stockbrokers or travel agents anymore. The same will be true for any other “middle person”, which is a means to an end unless they offer a LOT of Value.
So if your company has its Business Model deeply entrenched in hard up-selling, long contracts, “middle person”, or don’t treat the customer like they matter, you may want to change it up a bit to align with the wants, needs and demands of the customer in the Information Age. People now have a choice and a voice, and companies must evolve or dissolve.
Step 4: Unique/Wow Factors
Having or creating Unique/WOW Factors for your company may be the single most important thing in business today. Why should anyone want to work or buy from your company? What is Unique or WOW about it? Does what you sell or delver, stand out from the rest?
Having a Unique/WOW Factor should not only be for what you sell, but how you deliver it, especially if you are a commodity or a service, as in those cases, what you sell may not be that unique in the first place.
Create your own Unique/WOW Factors that would set you apart, make you Unique or WOW your customers. You can choose from any of a number of things like: quality, value, price, service, delivery, the list goes on. Just be different! If everyone is building fences, dig a tunnel. Be different, Unique and or WOW.
Important note: In creating your Own Unique/WOW Factors, remember that they need to be tangible. It’s what the customers receive and not what you say you are. If you say you have the lowest prices, but that’s not what the customer receives, it’s not Unique or WOW. You’ll know soon enough, the customers vote on if its Unique or WOW with their pocketbooks.
Step 5: Values
Values are the last of the 5 super important structures in creating your own unique Culture. Values let the outside world know what you are all about. Company Values are basically what everyone Values within organization.
To come up with your company’s Values, it makes sense to get everyone’s input, as they will be the one who need to embody them and live by them. Just take a good look around inside your company and see what the current Values are and if they are not what are desired for the future, create Values that will guide the people and the company towards success.
For example, if your company currently doesn’t communicate promptly, you wouldn’t want to state your Value as “communicate when convenient”, as that Value won’t allow your company to reach your potential in the future. You may want to create a Value like, “timely communication”. That Value would attract those that value timely communication and over time, that Value will become self-managing, while helping your employees and company to reach their full potential.
Make sure your Values are clearly stated to result in consistent way the organization performs or will perform. Values shouldn’t have to be explained or open to interpretation.
You can have any number of Values, it’s up to you, but keep in mind that your Values will direct the way you do things in the future, so choose wisely. Take some time and create the five key structures that will frame your own unique Culture, aligned with the wants, needs and demands of the employees and customers and the Information Age. Once the structure is set, allow the people part of your organization to create it. Over time, your Culture will become part of your DNA.
You Culture will then be the blueprint of “What”, “Why” and “How” you do things…now, and long into the future, helping your employees and company to reach its full potential.
Dr. David “Doc” Vik is the founder and CEO of The Culture King and was the Culture Coach at Zappos.com (2005-2010), where he helped drive their company culture. He is the author of . For more information, please visit .