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  • 28 April 2015
  • Eric Michaels

7 ways to build company culture

Entrepreneurs often thrive in small units. With a workforce of a few people and a nonexistent budget, you build a utopia of production and cooperation on the way to launching a company.

But what happens when you succeed and that small circle expands? Establishing a company where people love to work is hard (but necessary) work when you want it to survive for the long haul. Here are seven ways to build a great company culture:

The easiest way to grow a company that fits your image is to hire people who share or complement your values.

1. Identify your values
If you do not understand your company's greatest assets and core values, then you cannot set the tone for current and future employees. Work with your partners or most trusted lieutenants to determine what matters most to your company, and consider what that might mean moving forward. Once you have the blueprint, your company can follow it.

2. Set the example

Whether in written style, tone of voice, manner of dress, or length of breaks, your employees look to leadership to establish company culture. If you preach flexible hours but are seen getting on the case of a cofounder for taking a long weekend, your words will ring hollow.

Whoever is in charge of fostering the workplace environment should take special care to communicate the founding spirit. Everything from the way you sign off on e-mails to your demeanor in the office will be scrutinized.

3. Hire with care

The easiest way to grow a company that fits your image is to hire people who share or complement your values. Consider the cultural implications whenever you are adding a new manager or anyone you see potentially rising up the ranks.

Soon, you might be off starting another company or negotiating to have your business go public. When you take a step back, you can be sure your leadership will represent the company in the next phase. Hiring the wrong people is one of the most common mistakes small business owners make.

4. Communicate (and recommunicate) your vision

Your take on company culture may be complex to express, but make sure you are always communicating in a way that reflects your brand vision. Offer employees long-form documentation they can read at their convenience. Reinforce what you write when you speak to your assembled workforce.

Have cofounders and managers with a flair for communication do the same. The more ways your staff hears about the company's values and what they mean to you as the founder, the more likely these values will carry forward in the next growth phase of the company.

5. Eliminate the negatives

In every job you ever hated, there were negatives that screamed to be addressed. Maybe it was a company policy of wearing a jacket and tie in any circumstance; maybe it was a lack of coffee breaks or the fact that no one could ever work from home. Now that you are in charge, do your best to list those negatives and solve them for the better of your company.

Think about what might irk your employees about the commute to work, the options for eating in the office, or vacation policies. Then change them. When you make a concerted effort to excise the tedious and terrible from your work environment, employees are less likely to leave for another company.

6. Reward employees who "get it"

Nothing speaks to employees like recognition for a job well done. When you are trying to build a better company culture, think of it along the same lines as trying to make your company's products better. Whoever helps you move forward gets a reward. In addition to recognition and a bonus of some kind, let your staff know why this contribution is important.

7. Create a safe harbor

Employees confront fear and doubt in every industry, so think of ways to limit the stress of the work routine. You might consider having a "fun room" where employees can blow off steam or talk freely among one another without fear of reprisal.

Opening up communication lines and giving employees an outlet for grievances works wonders for morale. Staff members will think of your company as a place where they can grow, both professionally and personally. Once that goal is achieved, your chances of retaining employees will skyrocket.

Establishing a great company culture is an essential part of building a business. When you get it right, you create a company that is better than the sum of its parts.

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