Small but mighty: company culture that competes with the best
You might be small, but a culture that represents your company can make you mighty.
You won’t go hungry in the town I live in. On every street there is an abundance of restaurants, cafés, delis, you name it. There seems to be a new one opening up every week.
So it’s not difficult to walk right past a new eatery and barely notice it. Not long ago, I nearly did just that. A wine bar had recently opened, and sits modestly between two well-established venues.
But I did a double-take as I walked past as this new bar was brim full of people. Spilling out of the door with laughing and talking. Whilst its neighbours were fairly quiet. I wondered why.
Later that week I found out. My friends and I paid the bar a visit, and we were blown away by what we saw. From the second we stepped foot in the door, we saw the owner and the waitresses were happily chatting to the customers, taking time to talk through the wine list, pouring some for people to try, and generally enjoying themselves.
It was the most wonderful atmosphere.
I asked the owner what the secret to her success is. She said she wanted to create an atmosphere where people would be so happy they’d come back again and again. And she thought that if she created a friendly and laidback culture with the staff, they would in turn treat the customers that way.
They certainly achieved this. And subsequently, the laidback culture they created means they are often busier than their larger neighbours.
This is a situation many small businesses find themselves in – having to compete with larger companies in the same industry, even on the same street. But a great culture can see them become the competition.
So, how would you go about defining your company culture?
- Summarise what you’re about. People love authenticity. And a truly inspiring company culture cannot be faked.
Some of the most successful business leaders I’ve seen have defined a culture that is authentic to them and a reflection of their core beliefs. If you put on a facade, customers and employees alike will soon see through it – much like pretending to be someone else – and you’ll exhaust yourself in the process.
But a culture which is true to you can bring people through the (metaphorical) door, and as it’s a part of what you believe in, will give the culture longevity.
Action: Write down what you feel your business-values are e.g. friendliness, helpfulness, clarification or understanding – and be honest. Look at the list and ask yourself if this is how you want your business to be perceived. This is a good place to start beginning to define your company culture.
- Choose employees who ‘fit’ your culture. The people behind a business are what keeps the culture alive. So it’s really important that they are the right individuals to get on board with it.
When Ed Reeves and Rachel Clacher started Moneypenny, they wanted the USP to be the unmistakeably friendly and hands-on service that clients are given. To achieve this, they needed unmistakably friendly staff.
Through careful hiring, the team is now made up of people who are able to give the considerate and affable service to Moneypenny’s clients. Each individual brings with them their own personality that reflects the company’s outlook.
Action: When you interview someone to become a member of your team, ask yourself if they will be a good ‘culture fit’. Rather than being an exact replica of your personality, think about if they actively demonstrate the values that you wrote down when defining your company culture.
- Reflect your culture in every action. There’s no point in creating your culture if it’s going to gather dust. You’ve got to make it shine.
There isn’t a magical force which translates values into behaviours. The trick is to act on them, keeping the principles in the front of your mind until it becomes second nature.
Many businesses fall into the trap of having their ideals written in large letters on the wall, but then contradict them with their every day small actions. To really make a company culture thrive – it has to be lived and breathed in every accomplishment – no matter how small. This might seem overwhelming at first, but working every day on the premise of a few mantras will soon become a part of the shared conscious of the business.
Action: Make a conscious effort to reflect the culture in every action that you take. Start with one principle of your business values and apply it to your every day work.
By Laura Lloyd
Laura is just one of our superstars at Moneypenny, and is fanatical about helping small businesses grow.
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