Small businesses come in all shapes and sizes, from mom-and-pop shops to tech-focused startups, and everything in between. While they vary in industry, mission and goals, one thing many small businesses share is an outstanding company culture. There’s something about the small business culture that often gets lost as companies grow.
Sure, your company will change as you expand, but you don’t have to lose your unique culture along the way! So, how do you preserve your culture as you scale? With some thoughtful planning, you can make it happen.
(Re)Define Your Values
As your company grows, it’s easy to get caught up in the business details. All of the sudden you’re developing new products, meeting with potential investors, fundraising, adding new departments and making other important business moves. It’s crucial keep your mission and goals in mind. Take some time to define your company values. If you’ve done this in the past, revisit your values to make sure they still apply, and that you’re still living up to them as a company.
As a business owner, you don’t have to do this alone! Depending on the size and culture of your company, you might find it best to pull the team leads together, or even the whole company, to do this as a group exercise. No matter your style, be sure to clearly share your values with the company.
Keep Communication Lines Open
Clear communication is absolutely essential to your business, especially during periods of fast movement and growth. It’s important to communicate with your team to ensure everyone is aligned and stays on the same page.
In addition to communicating outwardly with your team, it’s important to have an outlet to receive feedback from your team. Depending on your size and growth rate, it may no longer be feasible for your employees to stop by your desk with an idea.
There are a ton of ways you can open the lines of communication. One proven method is to create an email list specifically for your company culture, such as [email protected] Invite your team to share ideas, requests and feedback to this channel. Have a few people manage this inbox that can help answer questions and implement action items from the feedback. For example, you can add your operations manager, HR coordinator or anyone else in your company that directly manages people or culture.
Another great option is to send an anonymous survey. You can easily create and send a survey to check in with the team on a cadence that works best for your company, such as monthly or quarterly. You can build a simple Google Form or use a survey software. If you’re using software to manage your payroll, check to see if you can send a survey through their platform!
Embrace Your Culture
Your company has a culture that’s unique to your team. Embrace it! Perhaps you’re a small company that eats lunch together once (or a few times) a week. Maybe you have a Friday ritual to end the work week as a team, such as happy hour or office games. As your business grows, you might not be able to keep all of the traditions alive. Prioritize keeping those that are most important to you and your team. This will ensure your employees continue to have fun at work and will help you attract new talent and customers!
There a variety of ways you can get employees more involved. Maybe your company likes to help the community and go on team outings. Perhaps your company offers a mentorship program that helps with professional and personal growth. Whatever it is, make it valuable and enjoyable for your employees. As you grow, it’s important for your team members to feel like they are valuable and a part of something bigger. Engagement in activities and development programs can help with this initiative.
Document Company Practices
The best way to preserve your company’s culture as you grow is to outline your values and document your practices. By documenting how you approach company events, newcomers will adapt quickly and long-standing team members will have a guide they can refer to.
Start at the Top
Leaders don’t just guide teams, they influence company culture. The leaders in your company are the most visible, therefore it is important for them to set an example and be avid supporters of the company culture. Leaders help engage both new and current team members to be ‘culture champions’ and play a part in telling the company’s story. Without your leadership on board as culture champions and influencers, it’s nearly impossible to embed your culture in a continuously growing organization.
At the end of the day, you need to do what’s best for your business to grow, meet your goals and reach success. Stay true to your company’s values and check in every few months to make sure your growth and values continue to align. Have an open line of communication with your employees, and take feedback seriously to ensure you continue to grow as a team!
Editor’s Note: This post was originally posted on March 31, 2017 and has been completely updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.
Director of People