Updated: Dec 23, 2019
One of the most important things that small business owners can do to attract and keep the right kind of employees and customers is to create the right company culture. Your company’s culture is a mix of your values, your team’s values, your customers’ values, how the world sees you, and where you want to take your company in the future.
If your company is the result of some longstanding dream of yours, chances are your company had a readily identifiable culture from the very beginning.
‘Company culture’ has this kind of corporate ring to it, but that’s just because of the limiting language that we often use to describe business. Your best employees are there because, whether they realize it or not, they have bought in to your company’s culture. It’s not uncommon to find that the people that work for a given company have a lot of otherwise ineffable things in common — how they see themselves, the kinds of things they like to do and what they want to do some day.
The company culture of a record store might arise from some unifying need for the store’s employees to share the world’s secret, undiscovered music with its customers. Record stores are about sharing.
A coffee shop is about crafting delicious, well-made beverages to kickstart someone’s day, or to give people a place to work and connect with the world. Coffee shops are about connection.
A clothing boutique is about curating a world of comfort and identity that fits how its owner wishes the world looked. Clothing shops are about taste.
The thing is, most business owners never explicitly create a manifesto laying out their vision for the company’s culture — they let it emerge from the example of their own leadership. Cultures need leaders in order to be transmitted from person to person. Your culture is like a virus that you created. You transmit the virus to your employees. Your employees give off little bits of that culture virus to your customers with every transaction.
The best company culture emerges when there is a strong alignment between the business owner’s vision, the team’s motivations, and the public’s perception of the company.
Aspirational, sophisticated, comfortable, casual, elite, populist, nerdy, cool, healthy, indulgent. Those are words that people use to talk about company cultures. They may use one or more of those words to talk about your business.
If your employees embody the culture descriptions that people use to describe your company, then you are hiring for cultural fit. If your customers also fit these descriptives, they’re also a good cultural fit for your business. Cultural fit is the term used to describe when the parts of a business are in alignment.
Companies that can find a good cultural fit between an owner’s vision, their employees, customers and public perception are very likely to be successful because everyone at every step wants to be headed in the same direction.