What exactly is the culture of a business?

The culture of your business represents the behaviours, values, and practices of you and your team. Your culture represents how you’ll all go about achieving your business goals. Group culture is one of the most powerful forces in your business and has a significant impact on the bottom line. A Harvard study of more than two hundred companies showed that a strong culture increases income by 765% over a ten-year period.

Ultimately, your culture will boil down to two things:

  1. The type of conversations that you have in your business
  2. How you treat each other

Compare the cultures of two different countries: Italy and Sweden and how they go about their day-to-day lives. Its quite normal for Italians to be very extroverted, even loud and boastful, in public. Whereas Swedes are much more introverted and humble. And they tend to shy away from flashiness. And of course, the food is very different too. These accepted and expected norms, and many more, make up the culture of each country.

Did you know your business already has a culture?

So while many businesses haven’t defined their vision and mission, every business actually has a culture, even if its been created by default. Look around your business and your team and you’ll see your culture in action.

If you don’t proactively decide what you want your culture to be, your team members will do it for you over time. So your job is to take control and decide:

  1. What you expect of your people, including yourself
  2. What you’ll accept of your people, including yourself

Keep it Simple: What’s important?

Typically your culture statement is a set of between four and fourteen values. Values, as in behaviours and practices that are meaningful and important. Look at identifying values that are:

  1. Important to the owners and shareholders of the business
  2. Important to your team
  3. Important to your customers
  4. Important to the sustainability and growth of your business

For each value, you’ll want to have a qualifying statement that specifies exactly what behaviours and practices are expected. For example, if excellence is something that’s important to your business then your value might be:

Excellence: Good enough isn’t. I always deliver products and services of exceptional quality that add value to all involved and for the long-term. I look for ways to do more with less and stay on a path of constant and never-ending improvement and innovation.

When determining the values you want to encourage in your business, consider:

  1. In order to fulfil your mission, what are the important characteristics each of your team members must have?
  2. What must you, as a business, focus on to be your very best?
  3. What qualities must you look for in the people that you hire?
  4. Which qualities do you want each team member to value the most?
  5. What are the characteristics and behaviours that would prevent you from achieving your mission?

A canoe is just a boat until its tested on the rapids

Values are there to be lived and breathed in your company on a daily basis. They’re definitely not a quick fix because they’ll take time determine and then embed into your business. And because you and your team are only human, there’ll be times when you deviate from the expected norms.

Yet until your values are tested when a real-life, difficult situation comes along, they’re literally just nice words on a bit of paper. Its only when you’re confronted with problems internally or externally that you actually have to look at how live up to your values.

You get what you tolerate – Mike Ditka

Values become real only when you demonstrate them in the way you act and the way you insist others behave.

We are family

In Old English, the word ‘team’ is defined as ‘family’. Until your business runs without you, you’ll be spending a lot of time with your chosen family: your team. And one thing you’ll see with businesses who’ve really nailed and embedded their culture is that they treat each other like family.

Life is a mirror

Your business is a reflection of you. So if you don’t like what you see in the mirror then remember you can change that. It’ll require you to take complete ownership of changing the culture of your business and address any unhelpful behaviours. Its not easy to bring your culture to life. When you’ve created a positive, thriving culture in your business, you’ll know that it was so very worth it.

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