A company's culture is a shared belief system expressed by its values, shared assumptions, and the group's understanding of what is expected and acceptable. Every company has a culture — even if they can't define it.
Company culture is one of those things that can come back to bite you in the assets if not planned, developed, defined, and communicated earnestly. Too many young entrepreneurs simply define their startup's culture as "work hard and play hard." This simple culture is problematic because one employee may focus on the "play hard" part of that statement more than the "work hard" side of the equation. Without more structure, including executive-level examples of what "work hard and play hard" means, the employee in our example may fail and even injure the company's reputation.
Here, entrepreneur Adam Ferrari offers ten tips that will help entrepreneurs proactively define their company's culture. The underlying premise of these tips is that creating a culture is work and should not be left to chance.
1 Align compensation with your company's values: Arguably, the only way to make some employees understand that your company is serious about its values is to tie them to their paycheck. A bonus for excellent customer service, for example, reaffirms that the company values its customers.
2 Align processes and values: If your company claims to value employees, for example, it will seem disingenuous if the company's processes — how it does what it does — do not align with the stated value.
3 Be transparent: The best way to convince employees and customers that your company has the best intentions is to let them look under the hood. Transparency assures that you mean what you say and say what you mean.
4 Conduct team-building activities: Teams don't spontaneously learn to work together well. It takes an investment in time and resources to help your employees learn to trust each other so they can act as a team.
5 Define and live the company's values: The things you and your company value must be clearly defined and available for everyone to see. Furthermore, they must be lived by the top management. "Do as I say, not as I do" will not build a winning company culture.
6 Encourage personal growth: Happy and satisfied employees are a good investment. Invest in their personal development. Offer learning opportunities, provide tuition assistance, encourage extracurricular activities to help them find the right work-life balance.
7 Foster open communication: If you can create an environment where the newest employee feels comfortable asking questions and stating their opinion, you are well on your way to developing a culture where communication is valued.
8 Recognize achievements: Everyone want to be recognized for their accomplishments. Doing so will motivate others to do their best too.
9 Value customers: Your employees need to know that you value your customers, and they should too.
10 Value employees: Your employees are unquestionably your most valuable asset. They need to know that you believe that. Employees that feel expendable may be easy to manage because they are in fear of being replaced, but at the same time, they will have no loyalty to you and your company.
Accountability is a critical leadership attribute. Leaders of organizations must be accountable for the culture that grows within their company. In today's social media-driven environment, it is never sufficient to say "we don't condone that behavior" after an employee's misstep. Your customers will wonder how much your company's culture contributed to that employee's poor behavior.
About Adam Ferrari
Adam Ferrari is a chemical engineer and founder of the mineral and leasehold acquisitions company, Ferrari Energy. Adam and his company Ferrari Energy have supported non-profit organizations such as Next Steps of Chicago, St. Jude's Children's Hospital, Freedom Service Dogs, Denver Rescue Mission, and Coats for Colorado. Ferrari is also the creator of the Adam Ferrari Health Science Scholarship, which is targeted towards high school students who wish to study health science in college with the goal of providing better care for patients with physical disabilities.