Larger companies often spend a lot of time thinking about and investing in their culture. As a small business owner, you may think that culture is something for businesses with big HR budgets that can accommodate foosball tables, espresso machines, and team retreats. But the truth is, cultivating a great culture is just as important for small businesses as it is for big ones—and it doesn't require a huge monetary investment. What Is Culture and Why Does it Matter?
Think of culture as the persona behind your business. It has a life and personality all its own. It determines how people behave and interact with one another when you, the business owner, isn’t there to keep an eye on things. If your culture is great, people will be excited to come to work and partake of it; if your culture isn’t great, people aren't likely to stick around for long.
How to Create a Great Culture
A great culture isn’t just about amenities. Sure, snacks and happy hours are nice, but if your employees don’t enjoy being at work or hanging out with their coworkers, free stuff isn’t going to help.
Culture starts first and foremost with you, the leader, and continues to grow based on the contributions of your staff. Here are 4 steps you can take to ensure you have the kind of culture that makes employees want to work hard and play hard for your company.
1. Hire People Who Fit the Culture You Want to Have
If you own a bookstore that specializes in sci-fi and fantasy books, then you probably don’t want to hire people who think that Star Wars is lame. If you want to cultivate an atmosphere of calm and welcoming in your yoga studio, then you likely shouldn’t hire high-strung, military-style instructors. Think about what your ideal work environment looks like and make sure the people you hire are ones who will thrive in that environment.
2. Create a Culture around Your Mission
Culture should always tie back to your business’s mission. If employees are passionate about what you stand for, they’ll be dedicated to accomplishing the goals you set forth—and happy to invest their time and effort in your business.
3. Let Everyone Contribute to Your Culture
While there should always be an “owner” responsible for managing your business culture, every staff member should be allowed to contribute. Encourage regular feedback from employees about what they like best about the culture, what they like least, and what new ideas they have for improvement.
4. Reinforce Your Culture on a Regular Basis
Whether its posters on the walls, company get-togethers, or a song you sing in the morning before opening, make sure to find ways to constantly reinforce your culture. A new employee should be able to get a sense of your business’s culture within the first week of working for you. If they can't, then your culture might need some work.
The Bottom Line
Creating a great culture for your small business is like raising a child. At first, you’ll invest a lot of time and effort into helping it grow; after awhile, your culture will evolve as more people contribute to its growth.