How to Maintain a Strong Culture as You Scale
October 12, 2016
If you are an entrepreneur, you can surely recall the day you came to terms with the fact that it was time to hire your first employee. It probably happened when you realized it was no longer possible to do everything yourself and still properly service your customers.
When you finally found someone you could trust to help run your business, you likely (hopefully) had some sort of training and onboarding process. And, whether it was a two-hour conversation at a coffee shop or a weekend at the office going over every detail of your business, you were setting the stage for what was going to be your company’s culture from that day forward.
Maintaining a culture when you’re still a start-up is relatively easy – you only have a few people to manage, and the main objective of each day is to operate as a team while working efficiently toward common goals. However, as a company continues to add more people, it’s also adding more personalities and egos, creating an ideal environment for unnecessary drama and more people problems. Developing a strong and stable culture provides the guardrails a company needs to keep everyone rowing in the same direction and focused on the same objectives. In fact, many CEOs will testify that building a strong culture trumps strategy. The equation is simple – the success of executing on a business strategy is directly correlated to the health and strength of an organization’s culture.
As you scale, your culture will need to become more refined. Follow these steps to maintain its integrity throughout the process:
1. Formalize your hiring standards and stick by them. If an applicant has the technical aptitude to fulfill a role but doesn’t fit the profile of your culture, keep looking. Just about every company has had, at one time, that one cynical, disruptive or awkward person who just didn’t fit in, causing conflict and all sorts of problems in the office. Hiring the wrong person can cost a company more than eight times that person’s salary in less than a year in terms of lost productivity, errors, mistakes, and other issues that get in the way of achieving objectives.
2. Onboarding should be more than a tutorial on how to access the server and providing a map to the restroom. An onboarding process should have a strong focus on your brand, what it stands for, what it means, and how it is unique from the competition. An explanation of how to deliver on your brand’s expectations should also be provided. Culture will play the lead role in brand delivery.
3. Confront all problems immediately. Very few people actually take pleasure in confrontation. It’s as uncomfortable as it is necessary. We all know that problems don’t disappear or resolve themselves on their own, and the sooner a problem is addressed, the easier it is to fix it. A problem left unresolved is cancerous to any culture, and employees expect their leaders to maintain an environment conducive to teamwork, excellence and efficiency.
There is a direct and unbreakable link between your brand and your culture. If a strong culture is absent, your people will not have the desire, focus, or the understanding of how to deliver on your brand promise. And, that will have a direct impact on your growth and profitability.
Scott Seroka is a Principal of Seroka, and a Certified Brand Strategist through The Brand Establishment.