This short article will give you practical steps to identify the culture you have now and the culture you would like to have to support you as a high growth business. We have talked earlier about the importance of a strong company culture in a high growth business and how it should be a critical part of your business strategy as it can provide real competitive advantage.
Whilst many owners in high growth businesses understand the need for a strong company culture, their businesses may well have developed without any clear focus on this aspect. There is a need therefore for a simple process to identify the differences between the culture you have now to the culture you want, and identify how to go from one to the other.
It is worth repeating that if you run a business you will have a culture. You get this by default, your company culture will be created by your values and the values of your employees. Those with the strongest personality or who are the most vocal will tend to create a dominant culture. To enable you as an owner of high growth businesses to grow faster for longer getting the right culture is a must.
Step 1 Find out what you have now.
The simplest way to do this is for you to identify the 3 to five words which you think together describe your company culture, so for example; honesty, reliability, easy to do business with, supportive, positive.
Step 2 Find out if your staff agree.
Produce a list of maybe 15 to 20 words and include you 5 initial words in that list. Ask your staff to highlight 5 words which they think best describes the company culture. By the way make sure the response to this survey is anonymous otherwise you’ll have staff telling what they think you want to hear, rather than what they really think.
Step 3 Analyse the results
You are most likely to get one of three results:
(a) there is a lot of similarity between your view of your company culture and that of your staff
(b) there doesn’t seem to be any prevailing view of your culture amongst your employees. This suggests what ever your culture is, it is weak.
(c) your employees have a completely different view of your company’s culture from you.
Step 4 Identify the culture you want.
Using the same technique as in step 1. Find a few keywords that will identify your new culture.
Step 5 Create culture champions
As a busy owner of a high growth business you don’t have either the time or the capability on your own to change your staffs attitudes. You will need the help of other key members of the team to become “cultural champions” to keep reinforcing the new cultural message.
Step 6 Implement your new culture
Encourage and support your cultural champions to work with your staff to implement those changes into you company culture. Where are you most likely to be successful? Recruitment is great starting point as you can filter out those potential staff who like and agree with your culture. As I have stated before this is especially important in a high growth business as new recruits become productive faster.
This last step may take some time depending on how different it is from your current culture. Don’t let that put you off as evidence has shown that a high growth business with a strong supportive culture will grow faster and for longer than a business which has not.
Laurence Ainsworth is the founder of Exigent Consulting a business consulting organisation which specialise in Managing High Growth, Business Turnaround, and Mentoring to the Small & Medium Business Sector.