Building a strong culture may not guarantee business success, but ignoring it inhibits a business’s chance for long-term sustainability. Company culture is defined as the shared values, beliefs and practices of company employees including management. Culture is not in your written policies and won’t appear as a line item on your balance sheet. Rather, it’s the actions and attitudes of everyone who is a part of the organization.

It’s the glue that holds a great business together. It’s one of the most impactful hidden assets a business can hold. Small businesses may think a culture will simply emerge over time and it probably will. However, as a business owner, culture is not something you should leave to chance but should plan for and actively work to create.

The type of culture you as an owner wish to create must be something that keeps your team inspired and functioning as efficiently as possible. Inspiring a culture where team members feel empowered to explore, create, and work at their peak performance level should be a core component of any strong company culture. It takes hard work and foresight to develop and nourish a company culture.

So just how can you go about assessing this?

• Look for common employee behaviors. How do employees act with customers and with each other?

• Listen with an open mind to employees, suppliers, customers, and members of the community. What is being said about your business in public, on social media and in the hallways of the business?

• How do you communicate your values to your employees?

• Are sales growing or shrinking?

• Is the company environment toxic or healthy?

• How do you give back to the community?

Once your assessment is completed, determine what you want the culture to look like in the future. Review your vision, values, and goals to make sure the culture supports them. Develop an action plan on what needs to be improved. Brainstorm changes; making sure to include employees in the planning and in communicating the expected outcomes. Monitor the results to see if they are impacting the company culture in a positive way.

Creating a unique culture can really affect how a team interacts with each other, building stronger relationships, and a stronger business. Here are a few tips to get you started:

• Lead by Example – owners need to show employees how they live the organizational culture in all their actions.

• Hire for Attitude — hiring to create a team with varied skills and interests will create a more unique company culture.

• Create an Enjoyable Atmosphere — get creative on ways you can show your team that you appreciate them. Recognize and reward employees who genuinely embrace the culture.

• Empower Your Employees — give your employees a chance to use their initiative, make decisions and own their work.

• Provide Opportunities for Continuous Learning — think of different ways for employees to share their knowledge — encourage job shadowing of each other. These small things will create conversations and improve awareness of what else is happening in the business. Attending a relevant workshop will help employees feel refreshed and excited to work.

• Keep the lines of communications open — make sure your team feels they can communicate openly and honestly about problems they are dealing with. This is especially important in small teams where the attitude of a single person can shift the team morale.

Communicating consistently with your team will keep you integrated and in tune with the environment of your business. There are many different types of business cultures, and the one your business adopts can affect everything from the public’s perception of your brand to your employees’ job satisfaction.

A strong and inclusive company culture should be premised upon good communication, a team with varied strengths and personalities, and one where members are happy to work because they are shown their value to the success of the company.

These building blocks will set the stage for creating a great company culture where your employees not only work efficiently but also value the success of the enterprise as much as you do.

For more information, send an email to, kleahy, or call CEDR/CCC SBDC Executive Director Kevin Leahy, at 503-338-2342.

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