3 Small Business Tips for Building a Strong Company Culture

As a small business owner, you might think that company culture is something only giant corporations really need to worry about. But when you’re a small shop competing in a world of big businesses, a strong culture may be what launches you ahead of your competition and attracts hardworking, loyal employees.

Company culture is the DNA behind your small business, impacting how your employees treat each other and how you work. It reaches beyond the walls of your office or store and touches everyone in your sphere of influence, including business partners, vendors and suppliers, and customers. Culture is the essence of what your company stands for and how you do business. But how can you strengthen and build your culture when you’re just starting out on your business adventure?

Defining Your Company Culture

First, you need to define your business’s culture. Shirley Lewis, a member of the Staples® Succeed: Small Business Networking community on LinkedIn, owns California Groomin’, an all-natural, organic pet grooming facility in Culver City, CA. She wants all pet owners and their dogs to feel like a part of the family and instantly welcome as soon as they walk in the door.

Lewis describes the California Groomin’ culture as “dog loving and customer service-focused,” and she says that’s helped grow her culture — and her business. “I take care of the dogs and their owners like they are extended members of my family,” Lewis adds.

To determine the best company culture, uncover and capitalize on existing strengths. A good place to start is from the outside. Ask friends, family and fans to describe your business and what it represents. Then look inward and ask your employees. This will help you identify areas where you excel and any gap in characteristics you would like to improve. Once you’re aware of your strengths, you can formalize a summary of your small business’s purpose and create a mission statement. Keep it short — one or two sentences — and post it somewhere you and your employees will see it every day for a powerful reminder of your company’s core principles.

Lewis’s 3 Tips for Building a Company Culture You Can Be Proud Of

1. Be the example for your employees: Not only will you strengthen your company’s culture as a result, but you’ll also attract employees who better fit your brand’s values and priorities. “My employees know that I am the role model and they should tag along after me in the same ways: calm and patient with a genuine love for animals,” Lewis says.

2. Your employees should be passionate about your core value proposition: They don’t have to be passionate about every aspect of your business, but they should fully support what your business stands for. This helps to create a unified and meaningful company experience. For Lewis, this means that every groomer on staff needs to be part of the pet lovin’ culture. “When I hire, I tell job candidates my requirements and clearly outline what I look for here. I also watch them groom a dog to see how they treat a dog — I always look for a rapport with animals. If they don’t have a rapport with the dogs, it doesn’t matter if they are ace groomers; they have to be in touch with the animals to join the team.”

3. Connect with your customers: If your mission statement is established and everyone who works for your company buys into the culture, your customers can too. It will help you transform the product or service you sell from being a commodity into a true relationship.Customers know my culture by the personal attention,” says Lewis. “They know to expect the same good service and results every time [they visit]. That’s why I’ve had customers for many years, and they recommend me to their friends.”

The key is to take your small business company culture and infuse it into everything you do both inside and outside your company, including social media interactions, advertising materials and every touch point customers might encounter. It will create a powerful and positive association with your brand — helping you grow your company along the way.

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