Developing Company Culture in Your Small Business

Customers and staff in a busy clothes shop

Every people group in the world has a distinct culture that sets them apart from everyone else. Each cultural group is united by a specific set of beliefs, values, and norms which are usually expressed through art, language, dress and food. The same can be said for small businesses and organizations.

Generally speaking, company culture or corporate culture refers to the beliefs and traditions that define how employees and management should interact with each other. Most of the time, as is true of cultural norms as a whole, company culture is implied instead of expressed. Moreover, it grows naturally over time.

Culture can develop through both the good decisions and the bad decisions that you make as a leader, so it’s important that you set the tone early on for how you want your small business to run, if you want your employees to have a strong sense of identity and present that image to your customers.

Here are some things you need to know about establishing company culture in your small business.

Division of Labor

For a company to move forward, its employees must work together. In order for that to happen, everyone must know how they fit into the grand scheme of things and what management’s expectations are of them. That means that you should set very clear guidelines for your team that efficiently delegate responsibilities.

As employees follow those guidelines and begin accomplishing tasks on time and getting into a flow with each other, a specific norm is created. They may not notice it at the time, but their adherence to the division of labor you have set forth creates a culture of communication and chemistry within the workplace.

It is important to note that the leadership of the company must also recognize the efforts of the team so they are more motivated to accomplish their tasks. When companies value their employees, employees learn to value their company.

Gifts and Rewards

As a child, receiving candy or prizes for good behavior or performance was such a bliss. The desire to be rewarded for good work doesn’t end with childhood. Adults enjoy being rewarded for their performance as well. Sometimes it is easy to forget to reward the accomplishments of employees or even acknowledge the progress that they have made, but there are very simple ways to make this part of your culture.

First, make a point to verbally praise your employees for the work they have done. This doesn’t need to be excessive or over the top, but it does need to be genuine. Show your employees that you see the value of what they contribute to the company. Whether you choose to praise them privately or publicly, make a point to always let them know how important their work truly is.

Secondly, rewards can also be in the form of small gifts, group meals, or bonuses. You may either choose to surprise your employees, or you can announce the reward before a specific task to incentivize everyone to work hard. You can also establish culture in this area by making a point to celebrate significant moments in your employees’ lives (e.g. birthdays, anniversaries, engagements, etc.). Host a small office party to celebrate them and help them feel valued.

Sometimes I can second guess myself or the work that I’ve done, because I’m not sure if it’s up to my boss’s standards and specifications. But whenever I present my work to Jamara, she is very good about encouraging me and letting me know where I have done well. That really emboldens me to take more pride in my work and to do my best on every job thereafter.
— S'ambrosia, Team Tuxedo Impressions LLC™

Communication In Small Businesses

Communication is one of the most vital elements of creating a company culture. It is an integral part of any type of organization in this world, and should be valued as such in your small business. Culturally speaking, your employees need to know two things: that they can always get clear and direct communication from their leadership and that their leadership is willing to listen to their input.

One of the biggest pet peeves of many employees is not knowing exactly what is expected of them. Imagine trying to complete a task but you have only been given partial information. When management lacks in the area of communication, this is what their staff have to deal with. Therefore, be concise yet detailed when delegating, and always check for understanding to make sure your employees are clear on what you want.

Open door policies are a great cultural distinction between businesses that have great employee-to-management communication and those that don’t. In some companies, employees are afraid to share their opinions with management, but if you can create a culture that allows them to be able to come to you when they need help or have questions or concerns, it will do wonders in giving them the confidence to believe that they truly are part of a team.

Our team works remotely, so being able to trust each other is huge. We believe in each other’s ability to get things done. A lot of the work we do requires the support and input of the entire team. Our culture is wrapped around the ability to make our presence known to each other no matter where in the world we are.
— Jamara, Team Tuxedo Impressions LLC™
My working relations with our leader has been amazing. She makes a point to meet with everyone through Skype (since we are scattered around the globe), and we appreciate her for checking in on us and asking how were we during the week. That’s culture right there.
— Maria, Team Tuxedo Impressions LLC™

In general, culture is something that showcases who we are in the eyes of others. We often focus on our clients and how we can serve them better, but good customer service begins with good company culture. When your employees are happy, secure and confident, it will spill over into their work ethic and customer service, which will result in overall success for you and your small business.

What are some notable traditions you perform in your company? We want to know how you’ve established your own culture, so feel free to leave a comment below.

~ Jamara Wilson, Team Tuxedo Impressions LLC™