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We’ve all had jobs that we dreaded. You may even remember the sinking feeling you had just before you had to open that door and walk into your day. Some great jobs even have bad days like that.  But when that sinking feeling becomes the rule and not the exception, we’re miserable in those jobs and we’re looking for an exit strategy. Looking back on that job, was it the work you do or the environment you did it in? For most, it’s the environment, the bad managers, and ultimately the weak culture. As a small business leader, you have the power to control that cultural aspect of the job and ensure your people want to work for your company every day, or at least, most days.

What Culture is and what it isn’t

Creating a culture that people want to be part of isn’t easy. In a small business, when you’re working hard to grow and hold on to your profit margins, sometimes it’s a whole lot easier to put culture initiatives off until next week, next month, next quarter, or basically forever. It takes time and it takes money to establish and maintain a strong culture. As easy as it is to do that, small businesses have a very unique opportunity when it comes to culture because your engaged employees are obvious, and your slackers can’t hide. This means you can really get in there and make your culture happen by engaging with everyone.

Culture isn’t all unicorns and rainbows, as GadellNet’s CEO Nick said on a recent podcast, it takes purpose. For a small business, you have to make sure your culture is operationalized and there are ways to sustain your culture. Being intentional means having values, programs, and checks and balances in place to ensure the predetermined culture you have in mind is coming to life.

Steps to Creating a Winning Culture

  1. Values: Your values should be the foundation of all other culture decisions. Figure out what is most important for your company to represent, inside and out. For GadellNet, it’s 100% Responsibility 0% Excuses, Grow or Die, and Make and Impact. Three short and concise principles that guide our decisions on culture and just about everything else.
  2. Programs: Implement programs and nontraditional benefits that support your culture. It could be anything from extra PTO for volunteering in the community, working from home, having your birthday off, having a gym, being a dog-friendly office, and so much more. Get creative.
  3. Checks and Balances: For your checks and balances, we highly suggest is a way for employees to give honest and anonymous feedback. We use TINYpulse. The reason we suggest this is because, like we said, it’s not all unicorns and rainbows. There will be challenges and employees need a way to voice their opinions, concerns, idea, and the like.

Your people should feel open to call you out, as a leader. No matter what layer of the organization your employees are at, they should be able to confront you directly about issues they have, even if those issues are about how you handled a situation. If you’ve chosen the right people to hire, they will do it in a tasteful way and not yell across a conference room at you, but they should be able to tell you that you’re missing the mark just as much as you would tell them. That is a big part of your checks and balances and a big part of having an open, candid culture.

Wrapping Up

So in summary, small businesses can create an awesome culture by taking advantage of being able to reach each and every employee, establishing and reinforcing strong values, implementing programs to support your values, and creating checks and balances. You will have to invest in your culture tools, but there is no replacing a workforce that wants to come to work every single day. That workforce is one with less turnover and higher productivity. Bonus: if you create an awesome culture, you’ll get to enjoy it every day too.

It’s more than the job they do that they need to love, it also needs to be the company.

If you want to learn more about building a great culture, listen to this Leaders with Heart podcast:

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