I talk a lot about company culture because it’s an inescapable and important aspect of every business. Whether its leaders know it or not, every workplace has a culture – a spirit, vibe or environment that arises from how you treat your staff, how they treat each other and how they make daily decisions.
So I encourage you to take a good look around and figure out your organization’s prevailing atmosphere. And to make the effort to change the culture if it doesn’t fit your business’ goals and values.
I know you’re busy. Workplace culture may seem like a luxury you don’t have time to bother with. Or you may think your business is too small to have a culture that matters. But you’d be wrong.
Whether you do the work of encouraging a particular work environment, or not, one will emerge anyway. And it isn’t something that can be kept behind the office door. Your current customers see and feel it. Your prospective customers see and feel it. So do your suppliers, your employees and their families.
So make sure your company culture expresses and supports the best of what you want for your business. After all, your workplace atmosphere is where and how your company goals will be achieved, or not; it's where your employees will thrive, or not.
Here are three ideas for encouraging an effective company culture:
Start with your values, vision and core mission. Write down a set of simple guidelines that any employee can use to guide interactions with colleagues, customers, suppliers and more. At Angie’s List, we have a short list of principals we expect every employee to abide by, including being honest, having fun and being creative.
At Angie’s List, we work hard to meet high standards and goals. But we also believe we shouldn’t take ourselves too seriously. That aspect of our culture shows in a variety of ways. For instance, at Angie’s List, every day is Casual Friday. When an employee has been here for five years, he or she gets the gift of a rubber chicken.
We also embrace an entrepreneurial attitude. That means we test a lot of things and have a high tolerance for failure, because it's often the seed of future success. Remaining open to new ideas is part of our culture.
In addition, we believe in being frugal and creative, and that’s expressed in our physical environment. Most of our buildings had been vacated and forgotten when we first moved to the near-East side of Indianapolis about a dozen years ago. Over time, as we've grown to more than 1,000 helping to serve 2 million paid members, we've put together a campus that includes a converted firehouse, former warehouses and old houses.
Keep your company philosophy front and center. Talk often about your principles. And most of all, lead by example. I don't have a fancy office or an executive restroom. I have a small office with mismatched furniture that I share with another person. My preferred seat is a cube in the corner of the marketing department, to which I escape every chance I get.
The culture for your workplace will be realized in ways that are unique to your business. But since culture can make or break a company, don’t neglect to take the time and energy to make sure yours is helping you achieve your goals.
Angie's Advice to Small Business is part of our Summer of Small Business at Angie's List. Follow Angie Hicks on Twitter @Angie_Hicks.