“Culture is your Operating System”
– Terence McKenna
A vital function of a business is to provide for its customers’ needs. With millions of businesses worldwide, what distinguishes one business from another, especially if they are a part of the same industry? Other than that, what makes certain businesses succeed, whereas the others struggle to make it work? More often than not, the difference that makes a difference come down to one word- culture. Simply put, culture is what imparts differentiation to a business, and is pivotal for it doing well.
How do you define culture in an organisation or a business? Company culture can be defined as a blend of values, beliefs, symbols, rituals, expectations developed over time. Culture is essentially the personality of a business. Just as individuals with a strong personality tend to be successful, businesses with a strong personality, or culture tend to be really successful. How specifically does a winning culture contribute to the success of an organisation? Studies reveal that such businesses have highly engaged employees, whose productivity goes up by 12%. Such employees also tend to solve complex problems more effectively than their counterparts who aren’t as engaged. The measure of success extends beyond the employees. Customers have an enriching experience when interacting or doing business with such organisations. High customer engagement means repeat business, as the customers become raving fans of such organisations and are unlikely to go anywhere else to fulfil their requirements. So there you have it, happy employees, combined with happy customers, which would be music to your ears, as a business owner or entrepreneur.
“I’m the only person running my business, should I really be concerned about developing a culture?” This is a question most solopreneurs tend to ask when culture is discussed. My response to that is, absolutely yes. Going back to the definition of culture, it represents the personality of your business- the blend of beliefs, values, expectations etc. While you may not have employees reporting to you, you do have your customers to serve. They get an experience of the culture you create in your business environment, directly or indirectly. Regardless of the size of a business, the quality of its culture is reflected in the experience its customers have.
So how can a business create a winning culture that consistently creates positive results and give it a competitive edge? With this article, we look at 3 Key Strategies that enable businesses to do so. These strategies would be of value to all entrepreneurs, regardless of the size of their business.
1. Define Your Purpose
A prominent trait of businesses with strong culture is that they are well connected to their purpose, why they started their venture. The purpose of a business is symbolic of what it stands for. Once you are clear on your purpose and connect with it, your beliefs, attitude, vision, your mindset in general, takes shape accordingly. Similarly, a business that is clear on its purpose forms its belief system or its personality accordingly. Also, in a business that employs people with different personalities, how do you ensure oneness of the organisation and bring in synergy? The purpose serves as a binding agent, which links all members of the organisation to a common cause, a common goal. The purpose doesn’t integrate your employees alone, it also integrates your customers as they relate to what you stand for. Hence, defining Purpose is the key to laying the foundation of a strong culture in an organisation.
2. Define Your Standards
Standards of a business often indicate the level of quality of products/services delivered. This definition can be extended to operations of a business, how people in the business perform transactions to serve its customers. Why is it important to define standards in a business? Standards give you a reference point or guidelines on what the best practices are and allow you to conduct your operations in a consistent manner. Not just that, they allow you to measure how effective your operations are. It is often said, you cannot improve what you can’t measure. By measuring your effectiveness, you also find ways to improve performance or redefine standards to bring about constant improvement in your business.
Businesses can define (or redefine) standards by referring to industry guidelines on what are acceptable measures. These guidelines serve as benchmarks, and help your business model best practices and aim at achieving high standards. The quest to play at a higher level can often positively impact the culture of a business.
3. Clear Communication
Having defined your purpose and standards, how do you ensure these are followed consistently for your business? This is where communication plays a key role. There are many businesses where key aspects such as vision, mission, standards as well as purpose- the very aspects that define the culture, are not clearly communicated to all its employees. As a result, the operations of a business are carried out inconsistently, which create inconsistent results, and are often not up to acceptable standards. When a business clearly communicates its purpose, vision as well as standards to its employees, the employees are aligned with these vital aspects. They are then clear on their expectations and that helps them contribute accordingly.
Some businesses such as Apple and Google often check-in with their employees to make sure they are clear on their expectations and take their inputs on how key aspects of the culture- standards, business processes etc can be improved. Through this approach, the employee engagement is enhanced and employees are empowered to actively contribute to the growth of the organisation.
If your business is in a startup phase, the above strategies can prove useful to lay the foundations of a strong culture. If you have an established business, these strategies can be insightful to address any gaps observed within your culture, which hold you back from getting the results you want.
Arpan Roy is a Leadership Consultant and Trainer. His key belief is that leadership is vital for growth of any business. Through Arman Consultancy, his business venture, he collaborates with leaders in businesses to define productivity and profit to achieve accelerated business growth. He specialises in various methodologies such as Values Pendulum®, Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) and Deep State Repatterning®. Using these, he identifies the cause of unrealised individual performance and business growth and creates effective and sustainable models for change that empower his clients to achieve the desired results. Arpan is based in Melbourne, Australia with his wife Manasee, who is also his business partner. If you are curious about how you can enhance your leadership to make a difference to your business or organisation, you can contact Arpan at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.blueprintforleadership.com