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Small Business Employee Benefits and HR Blog

12 Tips on Creating the Perfect Company Culture for Your Small Biz

November 20, 2013

Building a rockstar company culture. It's more than just "fun shirt Friday" or "hump day happy hour." It's what your business strives to be - your vision for who you are, how you treat people, and what your company is all about. It's what makes you a unique and desirable employer - an employer of choice.Silly Photos-4

Focusing on company culture is not just for the "big dogs." It is something that small business owners should also focus on. Because whether you intentionally create a company culture or not, you have one. And it's much easier to mold company culture when you're still small and growing. Considering most companies fail because of internal dysfunction, it's worth carving out the time to build and foster a culture that helps your business grow. 

So how does a small business get started in thinking about company culture? Google 'company culture' or 'corporate culture' and you'll get a plethora of tips, ideas, case studies, and best practices.

Here are 12 key takeaways I've gathered from our own company's discussion on building an intentional company culture. This is my short list of tips and to-do's. What are yours? 

  1. Document your values and the vision for company culture. Before you do anything, document the company's values and the big-picture vision for the company. Ideas to do this include creating a company culture vision statement or a dream map - share where you are going as a company to reinforce the common goal everyone is working toward. This first tip sets the foundation for everything else listed below.

  2. Hire wisely. Employees are the messengers of your culture, and benefit from the culture perks. Hire with an emphasis on attitude (does their attitude fit the company culture, do they exude the vision?) and worry less about their weaknesses. You can manage to fix or minimize weaknesses.

  3. Evolve as you grow. As your small biz grows and changes your company culture vision will too. You'll try things and they'll fail. You'll outgrow certain activities. Your product or company vision will evolve. Don't be afraid to evolve too. And if something isn't working, stop doing it.

  4. Take a look around. Does your physical office space reinforce the culture you're trying to create?  

  5. Be open & honest. Be transparent with employees about your company culture, especially with where you are and where you are going. Be vulnerable with employees. Keep an open feedback loop with them.

  6. Connect in a meaningful way about company culture. Take discussions about culture off-site. These conversations take time, collaboration, and focus.

  7. Assign a culture king (or queen). Company culture needs to be a collaborative effort, but someone needs to own it. Without a leader efforts will stall.

  8. Get leadership on board. Employees look to leadership to set the example for company culture. Leadership needs to be on board with the vision, reinforce the culture, and lead by example.

  9. Listen to employees. While leadership's involvement is vital, it's also important to listen to employees. Usually employees are just as keyed in - if not more keyed in - to the company's real culture. 

  10. Stay focused. Staying focused and prioritizing efforts is important, but only possible once you've identified your company culture vision (#1) and have an owner to drive progress (#7).

  11. Communicate culture. Always. Now that you've identified your company culture and hired the right people, communicate it regularly both internally and externally. For example, my favorite "about us" company pages describes their company culture. I know who the company is, what their vision is, what the employees are like, and what I can expect when working with them. I trust them. I like them.

  12. Create bonding rituals. Bonding rituals are the fun stuff. Have fun with the bonding rituals, listen to what your employees value, and make sure the rituals are connected to (or reinforce) your company culture vision.

What are your tips for small businesses in creating the perfect company culture? Leave a comment below. If we get enough new ideas we'll do a part two with your tips!

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Photo credit: Hubspot

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