Creating Culture in a Small Business

by Greg Skloot
Small Business   |   3 Min Read
cultural values

1. Write down your values

The first step in creating a culture is defining what your values are. If it’s not in writing, nobody will take it seriously. How do people at this small business behave? What behaviors are looked at positively, versus what is frowned upon? This is unique to each small business. Some teams might value deep analysis before making decisions, while others prefer quick decisions rather than lots of planning.

2. Build good habits

Culture is a combination of the values you care about and the habits that your team has. The habits are a direct result of the values. For example, if you place a strong value on accountability, having your team share status updates on their plans, progress and problems is a great habit to build. I use my tool Weekly Update to do that. Having regularly scheduled team meetings that are focused on debate and decision making is another excellent habit to start.

Shorter meetings. Real accountability.
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3. Call out wins and losses

Once the values are defined, we need to demonstrate that we live them. When people do things well that align with the company’s cultural values, that should be called out in a public (to the team) way. On the flip side, when people behave in a way that does not align with the company’s cultural values, it’s the responsibility of the manager to speak to that employee and ensure they understand what went wrong and how they can improve going forward.

4. Hire slowly and fire quickly

Among the most obvious manifestations of a company culture is using it to determine who to hire and who to cut from the team. Effective teams hire people that genuinely believe in their values. They ask thoughtful questions and look for demonstrated action during the interview process to make that hiring decision. At the same time, keeping someone on the team who doesn’t agree with the company’s culture is a direct threat. It is best for everyone if those employees move on to a new role elsewhere.

5. Promote people who exemplify your cultural values

Finally, a great way to demonstrate that the team genuinely believes in the cultural values is to promote people based upon them. This usually happens organically. If your values include excellent communication or strong technical skills mastery, than people who exemplify those characteristics will be most likely to be promoted.

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