6 Ways To Build a Great Corporate Culture for Your Small Business

Michael Essany Headshot by Michael Essany on July 22, 2011
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Small businesses may come in all shapes, sizes, and varieties, but the most successful of them all share one common bond — an outstanding corporate culture that is comfortable and conducive to inspired productivity and boundless creativity. Of course, many small business owners will tell you that’s easier said than done: They’re too busy managing payroll and trying to get real work done to bother with cultivating the aforementioned corporate culture.

But it doesn’t have to be that challenging.

“The value of a great company culture can’t be overstated,” business analyst Mike Randazzo tells the Intuit Small Business Blog. “But business owners and managers place far too much pressure on themselves to achieve it.” In reality, Randazzo admits, no one “builds” a great corporate culture. “All one can do is plant the seeds so the desired climate can grow independently of your consistent, conscious effort.”

“As much as they’re alike on paper,” Randazzo admits, “the diversity of America’s small businesses is enormous. There’s no easy, one-size-fits-all approach to fostering a great corporate culture. Every business isn’t well-served by the same management styles and corporate environment,” Randazzo says.

However, there are several steps that every small business owner can take to make their places of business an even better place to work.

1) Hire For Aptitude As Well As Attitude

Arguably, nothing contributes to — or detracts from — a corporate culture more than the employees of a company. Consequently, who you hire can significantly influence the corporate culture you get. For that reason, many small business coaches and advisors believe that just because one is qualified for a job doesn’t mean they are a good fit for the position. “The power of a positive, well-placed attitude within a company can yield tremendous rewards for many, many years,” Randazzo says. “So don’t hire exclusively on the basis of aptitude. Attitude should factor heavily into your hiring decisions.”

2) “Inclusion” May Be Cliche, But It Works

It’s a well-known morsel of advice that companies should take into consideration the thoughts of employees before major decisions are reached and strategic actions are taken. Sadly, the number of small business owners who actually take the effort to employ inclusive decision-making is remarkably small. “Just because you get everyone’s opinion doesn’t mean you have to abide by the consensus, ” Randazzo says. “Employees who feel involved in decision making exhibit higher-than-average company loyalty, even when their recommendations aren’t acted upon.”

3)  Loosen Up… But Not Too Much

It’s one of the oldest schools of thought in the world of labor: The more “fun” you allow your staff to have around the office, the more productive and happy your team will be. Although there is a direct correlation between successful corporate cultures and a comfortable, relaxed working environment, one of the biggest mistakes SBOs make, Randazzo says, is getting “carried away” with creative ways to work and have fun on the clock. “No one is saying you shouldn’t employ creative management strategies or encourage a jovial office climate,” Randazzo concedes, “but there comes a point when such efforts become counter-productive. And its important to know where those boundaries lie on your turf.”

4) Groom Everyone to Replace You

An underlying sense of mutually shared preparedness and responsibility is one of the most important attributes of a great corporate culture. “Employers,” Randazzo advises, “are well-served by efforts to train, guide, and prepare staff to fill their shoes — even though most will never get the opportunity to do so.”

5) Lead by Example

Corporate culture is often erroneously believed to be the principal product of the working relationships among colleagues around the office. While there is substantial truth to that statement, the words, actions, and other patterns of the boss exert an enormous gravitational pull on the waves your workforce is capable of making. “Frequently,” Randazzo admits, “the journey to an improved corporate culture begins by exploring new ways for the the boss and management team to better communicate, interact, and work alongside the rest of the team.”

6) Let Everyone See The Mountain Top

“Goal-setting has either become a lost art or a highly private practice,” Randazzo says in jest. “Studies show that collective awareness of company goals is a powerful motivating factor. Any savvy small business owner has at least one primary goal for his or her small business. Employees should know this aspiration inside and out. “Looking to the future can and often does provide fuel to succeed in the present,” Randazzo concludes.

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