When you start a business, things like “company culture” or “core values” don’t mean as much as just living in survival mode. However, you may want to rethink your priorities. Having a strong culture from the very beginning can completely change the trajectory of your business. Your company culture begins with the mindset, choices, and attitude you bring to your company from inception. As you grow your team, company culture leads to increased employee retention and a competitive edge when hiring. According to the Digest of Company Culture, a strong culture can reduce employee turnover from 48.4 percent to 13.9 percent.

If you’re interested in building your brand, attracting a strong team, increasing productivity, and improving relationships – you absolutely must care about your company culture.

Step 1: Define It 

To improve your company culture, you must first be able to answer three questions:

  • Why does your company do what it does? (Your Core)
  • What do you believe? (Your Values)
  • Where do you want to go? (Your Vision)

If you don’t have answers to these three basic questions, it is very difficult to make cohesive decisions, grow your team, and build relationships. Take your time to answer them, because your answers make a huge difference in your future. Consider the real reason of why you do what you do (we all want to make money, that’s not a reason). You should have a core reason you believe in your bones.  What do you believe in? Is it honesty? Safety? Integrity? Quality? These are things you will absolutely and unequivocally never compromise on. To be true values, they should be chosen very carefully. If you value everything, you quickly value nothing. As you grow, your employees will want to know what they are part of. Where you are going as a company and what your vision for the future is. They can’t get on board if you don’t know where you’re going.

Step 2: Identify Changes 

Once you have 5-10 employees, you can quickly begin to see the natural company culture that evolves. If this doesn’t align with the core values and vision you identified in step 1, it’s time to make some changes. For example, if you value honesty and integrity – but you don’t have a firm pricing structure, it’s a problem. If you value safety, but aren’t providing top-notch training, it’s a problem. Make these changes a priority.

Step 3: Hire for Culture 

It’s up to you to ensure that every person you bring on aligns with the company culture and values. This is critically important. Skills can be taught, values cannot. Instead of focusing on credentials, consider including these interview questions at the very beginning:

  • What do you value most at work?
  • What do you like and dislike about working with a team versus working by yourself on projects?
  • Can you give an example of how you handled an interoffice conflict?
  • Can you give an example of a failure and what you learned from it?
  • Have you ever felt out of place at a previous job? Why?

During the interview, be very transparent about how your company prioritizes culture. It shows the candidates what you’re looking for. If necessary, make a deliberate decision to hire people with the values you’re looking for, even if they don’t have the best qualifications. “Building a company from scratch is actually the easiest cultural build. It’s changing culture once it’s ingrained that’s hard,” says Sarah Larson, Partner and CHRO at Third Rock Ventures

Step 4: Promote Transparency and Trust 

A small business is unstable by nature. There will be ups and downs. This is why choosing the right people is so critically important. Once you have a team you believe in, it’s time to promote extreme trust and a level of transparency most employers aren’t used to. In today’s modern workplace, employees are not OK being kept in the dark while decisions are made at the top.

Business leaders are being asked to share more than ever from the very top to the very bottom. This creates an environment of trust. Of course, you don’t need to tell your team every time you’re concerned about sales or are having a backyard conversation with a potential investor. But keep rumors to a minimum and trust your team. The last thing you want is for your people to feel uncomfortable or ambushed. Transparency and trust both minimize workplace drama and fosters collaboration that increases productivity across the board.

Step 5: Embrace Failure

The notion that “failure isn’t an option” is completely false. In fact, failing is the only option. You must first fail to learn and then succeed. If your people are too afraid to fail, they won’t push themselves hard enough to try what needs to be done. Embrace mistakes, understand they will happen, encourage accountability, and openly learn and grow from one another. Model this for your people, show them what you tried that didn’t work. Don’t just hang up a motivational quote – be the first to demonstrate how to try, fail, learn, and grow.

Step 6: Invest in Your People

Benefits and office perks are playing a greater role in employee happiness and company culture than ever before. Unfortunately, this is the area where small employers often lose out on top talent due to the costs associated with benefits and perks. You don’t have to have a huge people budget to invest in top talent. Explore ways to support your people in areas that align with your company culture and help boost employee morale. Recognize employees for their performance and efforts. Beny is a fantastic way for smaller employers to build a best-in-class workplace culture while maximizing their people budget.

Set up for Success

Employees are the backbone of your operation. Today’s employees want to work for a company that values the same things they do. A recent international study reported that 77% of adults polled would consider a company’s culture before applying for a job there. It’s not only about salary or benefits, employees prefer to work for a company with a strong culture and a defined set of positive values.

The largest, most popular companies in the world are continuously looking for ways to improve their culture to keep employees and customers happy. Start early and establish your company culture in the early years to create a strong foundation for growth.