Creating a High-Performance Business Culture
What does "business culture" mean? How does it contribute to the success of your small business?
Business culture describes the workplace environment that you create for your employees (and yourself). It determines whether those employees are motivated or apathetic, productive or lazy, and committed or indifferent to outstanding customer service. It’s directly related to the company’s bottom line.
Here are some tips for creating a high-performance business culture.
1. Start with values. Regardless of the type of business you run, certain fundamental principles drive your behavior — and, by extension, your employees’ behavior. Honesty and integrity are part of the values equation, but in today’s marketplace, that’s just the starting point. What else compels you to succeed? What other principles are so important that, without them, there’s no reason to stay in business?
Your values should dictate the type of people you employ. Finding workers who embrace your guiding principles sets the foundation for high performance. It also helps to inspire employees and keep them grounded in times of crisis.
However, values only work if you: abide by them and lead by example; take every opportunity to communicate them to your team; and show how those values are linked to the decisions you make (who to hire, who to fire, who is worthy of recognition and reward, etc.).
2. Build trust. Trust is another essential element of a high-performance culture. When you trust your employees and they reciprocate, everyone works within a culture that accepts mistakes in pursuit of innovation and encourages independent thought. In other words, employees should be able to express their opinions without a fear of consequences.
Without mutual trust, morale suffers and people fear for their jobs. As if that isn’t bad enough, a negative atmosphere can poison your customer relationships as well.
3. Envision the future. Do you remember why you started your small business? Do you have a strong sense of where to take it in the months and years to come?
The clearer your goals, the better you'll be able to share them with the employees who are charged with making it all happen. A strong, well-articulated vision lends a sense of meaning to the work people do. After all, it’s part of their future, too.
4. Understand what makes your business special. Some call it a “mission statement”; others call it the “wow factor.” Either way, it’s whatever makes your enterprise unique and exciting. A thriving business culture fuels the excitement and helps set your company apart from its less imaginative competitors.
5. Communicate. Information empowers employees to become more confident and imaginative. Whenever possible, share your ideas and decisions with your team. Hold staff meetings in which employees feel free to ask questions and you provide straightforward answers.
6. Be part of the community. People crave inspiration and often want to do social good. Look for ways to foster a sense of purpose through involvement in charitable causes.
How can your business give back? Active participation in local fundraising campaigns, neighborhood cleanups, youth program sponsorships, etc., is good for your employees and your business. Customers will support a company that invests in their community.
7. Have fun! Employees understand it’s important to excel at their jobs and do everything possible to help grow the business. But they also respond with enthusiasm when their boss adds a little fun to the mix.
The occasional recreational activity (a pizza party, a bowling tournament, a karaoke happy hour, etc.) helps people let off steam, keeps morale up, and lets people know the owner has a human side. Doing things together also encourages teamwork in the office.
Lee Polevoi is an award-winning business writer specializing in the challenges and opportunities facing small business. He is former Senior Writer at Vistage International, a global membership organization of CEOs.