Let’s imagine you start your company. It’s not happening “just because” and it doesn’t live its own life. The idea behind it is to sell your product or service. Once you have come up with them, you start thinking about the business plan and financing. Right? But that’s not all… There is one aspect massively underestimated by young entrepreneurs. What is the company culture and why do you need that?
Recently, I’ve learned that this is one of the secret keys to succeeding with your business in the long run. Did you know that based on this mysterious term “organizational culture,” researchers have divided companies into 5 categories? Here they are:
- Star: “We recruit only top-rated talents and pay them high wages. They need the resources and autonomy to do their job.”
- Engineering: “We are highly committed. We embrace a skunkworks mentality and the binding energy is just unstoppable.”
- Bureaucracy: “We make sure things are documented, we have our jobs and project descriptions, and we adopt pretty rigorous project management techniques.”
- Autocracy: “You work, you get paid.”
- Commitment: “I want to build the kind of company where people would only leave when they retire.”
Surprisingly (at least to me) the research shows that companies with the “commitment” mode have outperformed other types of management style, leading to faster IPO, higher profitability, and a lower employee turnover.
The invalid values system
Now let’s break down the top story disease. When you hire 10 or 15 new people, it is no longer a bunch of close friends who share the same values. Passion and dedication for the enterprise are obviously not the same as for shareholders.
You’ve hired some guys who can do the work efficiently, based on their technical expertise and you haven’t focused on any other aspect.
What are the symptoms and signs?
Well, the job is being done, but you no longer enjoy spending the time with your team as much as you used to. Whenever you try to interact with the newbies, you notice that the way they act, speak or send emails is not “the way we do it.” Your clients are complaining about the service you provide. Something seems to be missing. No extra mile or pro-activity.
The most probable reason for that might be not defining your company values and culture. Since you’d started a business, you’ve been too focused on just keeping it alive and haven’t paid attention to small and silly stuff like the personality of whom you’ve just hired.
You assumed that if they can do the job, there is nothing else that counts. And it has already resulted in quite a hard landing, huh?
How to fix this?
Here is a simple but powerful exercise that can help you put the company back on track. I’ve learned it during my MBA course and I suppose it will last with me forever.
Think of a Brand Identity for your company. How would you benefit? It will not only give you a perception of the company culture, but also some insights about your clients. Given that, which steps should you follow to make it work? Let’s see.
1. Action Plan
The Brand Identity is one of the most useful concepts I’ve worked with. Once defined it will guide you, your employees and the whole organization for many years forward. Before you read further, make yourself familiar with the concept, and make sure you know it by heart (no joke).
Take a day or two off with your board to end up with no emails, no conf-calls, no fails or asaps. You are about to define your company idea for the next couple of years – it requires some focus. Then just work on it. Together.
You probably have noticed the company started drifting in the direction you never intended to follow. It’s time to address your whole organization right away.
As always, I strongly recommend telling the whole truth, even if it’s harsh. If you have to lay off someone, explain why. If the person doesn’t match your company in character or one’s respect to the values you cultivate, everyone else should understand that.
Explain the Brand Identity to everyone (leave your team with absolutely no doubts, no question marks, no rambling). From now on, your internal culture will be a fundamental issue differentiating your business from competitors.
Make sure you hire only those who suit your brand identity. At Predica we’d established our brand identity one year after the company was founded. Since then we follow the ritual of presenting the values to each and every new employee and repeat them at least once every half a year during our company meetings.
I actually found writing elaborates too complicated and we decided to create something more graphic to make it easy to understand and adopt (relying on the example below):
Seems complicated? Not really, right? We did the same in our company, and this is what our brand identity prism looks like:
Based on this experience we’ve extended our brand awareness with one little item everybody in the company may identify with – the Predica’s Triangle of Power. It aims to focus our team members on three key virtues without analyzing too much. Putting this little sticker in sight (e.g. near the laptop’s touchpad) makes our employees come back to it every time they get stuck.
Since it’s a TRIANGLE of power, all the three areas should be co-functioning. There’s no other way to achieve business goals – even one missing just won’t make it.
How long will it take to recover? Max. 2 weeks. Let’s break it down: up to 7 days to arrange a meeting with founding partners and up to 2 days for announcing the outcome to the company’s staff. And that’s it!
Company culture – deal with it!
In general, your unique company culture might be exclusively shaped top-down. Start from yourself as a founder and engage your executives. Some little steps at the beginning will lead you to the great organizational habit no one would even think to resist.
If you desire to build a suitable organization ideal, you need to understand that values are critical. You may change the management model anytime you like to become more successful in developing an outstanding team and workflow.