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Maintain a Small-Company Culture As You Grow

A recent online survey studied the aspects of work environments that resulted in happy workers. Early results from the survey proved what anecdotal evidence has shown for years: Smaller companies — those with less than 100 people — are happier at work. This is great news for small business owners.

On the other hand, businesses experiencing growth should ask themselves how to keep a small-company culture alive while still enjoying the increasing profits that result when you grow your business. Here are some tips.

Small Company Happiness

Before beginning the effort to maintain their culture, small business owners need to identify which aspects contribute to employee happiness and productivity. Smaller or start-up companies have unique methods of doing business that are often a result of lack of personnel, which forces closeness and shared responsibilities among employees.

Small business owners also tend to be more hands-on at all levels of the business. There are few layers of management, which allows the small business owner to stay in touch with most workers and to guide the direction of the business personally. This hands-on guidance allows the owner to create a business culture reflective of his or her ethical beliefs. And the personal touch goes both ways, allowing employees the freedom to directly communicate with the owner about complaints and suggestions. Quick two-way communication often leads to a speedy implementation of procedural changes.

Keeping the Culture Alive

It isn't easy to keep a small-company culture alive as the company grows. The more personnel a company has, the harder it is for small business owners to maintain the same level of personalized service. The solution is to make certain that the owner's involvement is felt as much as possible, primarily through good communication.

Fast and accurate communication within a company is vital to maintaining a small-company culture within a larger organization. Directives from the owner should be communicated directly to the workers affected. This means all levels of management need to work at maintaining a policy of open communication with their employees.

Mobile workers need to feel like an essential part of the organization as well. This can be done by keeping them connected through company-issued laptop computers or mobile phones. Communication also keeps the ethical sense of the company alive, allowing workers to speak about issues directly with those in charge of making company policies.

A sense of social closeness between employees aids in maintaining a small-company culture that is beneficial for small business owners. This can be achieved through non-work events ranging from company picnics to softball teams to company-sponsored charity functions manned by employee volunteers.

The Cost of Maintaining that Small-Company Mindset

Maintaining a small-company mindset isn't free. For example, the cost of keeping mobile workers connected can be high when you consider the establishment of a company network, equipment charges and maintenance fees. The return in productivity can be higher, however, with each dollar spent on technology paid back by the company's ability to have workers who roam far and wide seeking new business or taking existing business directly to the customers.

Where the return is greatest is in the happiness of the workers. Happy workers tend to remain with a company longer, lowering training and severance costs. They're also more productive, taking fewer sick days and therefore raising the bottom line.

The Bottom Line

In short, a happy worker is an asset to the company that is worth the cost of creating and continuing a small-company culture, regardless of how large your business grows.

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