When most business owners create their initial business plan, they give a lot of thought to certain things, such as product development, organization, growth, etc. But one of the most critical components of building a healthy, growing business is a strong company culture.
Strong teams produce strong results. It sounds oversimplified, but it’s a fact most businesses neglect. So what goes into creating a culture that allows your team, customers, and business to succeed? While your team’s culture is nuanced and unique, we think every culture can be built by keeping the four D’s in mind: define, document, discuss, demonstrate.
What Culture is Not
Whenever you’re building or creating something, it can be just as helpful to know what you’re not looking for as much as what you are. Culture is something that is easily understood: we tend to think of it in very physical terms. If an office has an exposed brick wall, a ping pong table, great coffee, or team members wearing jeans and sneakers, we automatically assume that they have a great culture. And unfortunately, that assumption couldn’t be more wrong.
These things can have a part to play in culture (perhaps your team feels a little more freedom to work hard and be creative if they can come to work in casual dress versus a suit and tie), but they are not culture. Your company culture is defined by who you are, how you carry yourself, and what you do, not by what you wear or how cool your office space might look.
The 4 D’s of Creating a Strong Culture
Before we dive into the four D’s we’ve “developed” as a way to build a strong culture (see what we did there?), we need to talk about the mentality behind building a strong culture. This is something you have to address and think about on an almost daily basis. It’s not the kind of thing you can set up and then forget to address. It has to consistently be at the front of your mind.
Once you know what culture is not, it’s time to think about what your company’s culture is. Who are we, and who do we want to be? What do we aspire to be as an organization? How will we carry ourselves with one another and the clients we are privileged to serve? This is not something that a leader can just announce and expect others to follow. Instead, dialog about your culture with the people who lead parts of your company and ask for input from team members who are all in.
Once you have defined exactly what you want your culture to be, you need to write it down. Create a tangible, physical document that your team can touch, read, and reference. While your company culture is an intangible thing, you need to have a physical form for it that spells out every aspect of it for you and your team. This documentation of your culture also creates accountability for every member of your team, both now and in the future.
Once you define and document your culture, it’s time to discuss it. We keep a focus on culture by talking about it at our weekly leadership meetings and monthly team meetings. We reference it when we’re handling any internal or external conflicts, when we are interviewing prospective team members, and when our leaders are leading their individual teams. We are constantly reminding ourselves of who we are and what we want to be for each other and our clients.
All of the discussion, documentation, or definition in the world is meaningless if you don’t put your culture into action. Demonstrating your culture starts with your leadership. If the people who lead your organization aren’t demonstrating your culture on a daily basis, how (and why) can you expect your team to? As an organization, you demonstrate your culture: internally to your fellow team members, to the clients you serve, and to future hires who might be a part of your team someday.
Want to Learn More About Creating a Strong Company Culture?
Nothing you think about at your company will affect future success and growth like your culture. It is the single most important thing for your team and your clients.
If you’re interested in learning about building a strong culture, growing your business, and more, subscribe to our weekly Chalk Talk series. In each video, we share some insights we’ve gained from our own experience and our work with our clients.