“Company culture.” Surely you’ve seen this buzzword floating around the blogosphere and beyond--but what exactly is it? Isn’t a company’s culture just the environment that forms in the office?
Well, the answer to that is yes--and no. While a company culture is certainly inherent and will develop based on the office environment, that’s not to say that it is something that “just happens” passively. With a bit of effort, you can actively craft an ideal culture that fits your organization’s values to ensure everyone is working towards the same goal. Although it’s generally easier and more organic to instill a certain culture from the company’s start, that’s not to say that it’s not worth the effort if you’ve been in the business for several years already.
The first step to a solid company culture is to be a great leader--your team is only as strong as its leadership. Take a step back and look at the values that your business holds and how you can demonstrate them in an effort to determine the best direction for your organization. Whether you need to restructure the hierarchy to improve vertical communication or you think instilling some healthy competition will boost job performance, it’s important to take these major culture goals and break them down into a roadmap of smaller, actionable steps.
We make our culture plans a team discussion by bringing everyone in to gauge their thoughts on the matter. Team-building retreats are great for this, as getting out of Dodge for even a few hours can be refreshing and increase productivity. As a group, look at your goals for the upcoming year: Where are you now? How did you get there? Where do you collectively want to go? How can you get there together?
One thing we pride ourselves is the fun and inviting vibe that we have within our office--we have gotten positive feedback from other vendors and clients alike. However, that didn’t just happen overnight (we wish!). We actually decided that our first step would be remodeling the office and bringing in new furniture and colors. Not only did this push our culture in the right direction, but it also kept us motivated to keep going down that path. Company culture comes in other shapes and forms as well, from the way employees dress to the way the team communicates with one another even down to the website’s branding.
Not only will a strong company culture blossom into a formidable team dynamic, but you’ll also start to notice that your brand attracts like-minded clients who share your ideals. That’s why it’s essential to translate your internal culture externally, so your industry peers and clients get an idea of who you are and what you represent.
Keep in mind that instilling a company culture is not a one-time fix--it’s a continuous process that needs to be nurtured and maintained by leadership. Check in with employees from time to time to get their thoughts on the culture and whether there’s anything they would do to improve it – then make good on those ideas! It’s important to remember that, despite hierarchical roles, everybody is on the same team and working to the same goal. Culture is constantly changing, but don’t forget that it’s a good thing to have as it means your company is growing rather than staying stagnant.
Kevin Dennis is the owner of Fantasy Sound Event Services, a full-service event company based in Livermore, Calif. He is the current chapter president for Silicon Valley NACE and the immediate past national president for WIPA.