10 Ways to Unleash the Power of Culture
When people describe a company with great culture, many people immediately picture a laid-back and fun-loving atmosphere. This sells a good company culture far short, though.
Building a great culture is much more than just casual attire or Beer Friday—it’s more about the who, what, how, and why of your business. Your culture isn’t your perks, it’s your values. Building great culture takes some combination of time, money, and effort, but the payoff is a powerful business tool and the ultimate competitive advantage.
At Call-Em-All, we have people who care, a strong support structure for the work they do, and a clear vision of what we’re trying to accomplish. This combination results in a healthy, focused, and engaged team—a powerful team. When you stop to think about it, your team is your most important business tool. Culture determines if your team is a weakness or an endlessly renewing competitive advantage.
Here are 10 ways you can use culture to unleash the power of your team and make it your ultimate competitive advantage.
1) Document Your Company Culture
Hai Nguyen and I attended Inc. Magazine’s GrowCo Conference and met Sunny and Ashleigh from Motto. It was clear they were passionate about instilling passion and culture into a company’s brand. It took us a few months to complete, but we formally documented what it was that made us special—then infused it into the new website.
2) Get Out of the Office and Find New Ideas
I attended a Small Giants Passport event at Zingerman’s Community of Businesses in Ann Arbor, MI, with a small group of like-minded business owners and Small Giants author, Bo Burlingham. Thanks to these great people, I left with inspiration and ideas for continuing to improve Call-Em-All.
3) Create a Work Environment that Fosters Success
We completed our long-awaited office remodel. We now have an open and collaborative environment with shared offices for private conversations, webinars, important calls, or isolated work time. Sit-stand desks have been a big hit, and are helpful for collaboration. We also have an open kitchen, a large open area for team meetings and lunches, and a reading (video game) nook.
4) Teach Employees to Think Like Business Owners
We implemented a Great Game of Business-inspired scoreboard. This scoreboard now guides our weekly all-staff meetings. As a result, we’ve made great strides in identifying and measuring the activities that matter most to our success. Communication between teams is better than ever and real-time dashboards on our walls track our most important metrics. Every employee understands how their activities affect the overall success of the company and hold each other accountable.
5) Take Time Away—Together!
We took the entire company to visit Zingerman’s Community of Businesses, where we spent a very productive day-and-a-half working with Ari Weisenweig and Maggie Bayless. The trip was much more than just training, though. We spent quality time together building bonds across teams and sharing new experiences.
6) Share the Wealth
We created a new profit sharing plan to allow employees to share in the success they help create. The plan fits well with our goal to encourage employees to think and act like business owners. Our compensation model has always involved paying our employees well, so our profit sharing plan is more like icing on the cake.
7) Define and Demand Great Teamwork
Our team read Pat Lencioni’s 5 Dysfunctions of a Team. His concepts on teamwork were right in line with the way we want to work, but they were a little more formal than we like. So, we took Pat’s ideas and translated them into our own words. The result is the Call-Em-All Formula. It’s our formula for great teamwork, and we love it.
8) Define and Document Your Company Vision
We started our vision with the guidance of visioning guru Ari Weinzweig, founder of Zingerman's. We had no idea where to start or even if we had a vision in mind—turns out we did. It’s just a matter of coaxing it out and writing it down. Writing down your ideas has an amazing ability to make them happen! Check out this great blog post by Thomas Hoffman (incorrectly attributed to me).
9) Find Out What Your People Really Want
The great Paul Spiegelman taught me the value in learning the aspirations and dreams of the individuals on your team. If you really care about your team, you’ll help them accomplish their goals—whatever they may be. Sometimes, you’ll find out their long-term plans require leaving your company, and that’s okay.
10) Create Leadership Opportunities for Everyone
One of the challenges a small business encounters is that there is no “corporate ladder” to climb, and so there’s no clear path for advancement. As an alternative to formal titles and promotions, we’ve found great opportunities for leadership within special committees.
At our weekly meetings, we regularly identify problems that can’t be solved immediately or by just one person. Our solution is to form a committee with the required resources. Then, we ask who would like to lead the committee. The leader could be anyone in the company, and your team could include your manager or even the president of the company.
While Call-Em-All started with a healthy culture, we’ve been able to make amazing improvements in short order. Try at least one idea to help your culture and team become your most powerful business tool.
Want to learn more about building a Small Giants culture? Download our eBook for strategies and best practices!