As a freelancer, chances are good that your initial workplace consisted of the guest room in your house or the big table at the corner coffee shop. Your ‘company culture’ likely was a combination of your own quirky ideas of work breaks (Frisbee golf, anyone?), a relaxed dress code, and a flexible work schedule that allowed for long lunches.
With a little perseverance and hard work, your freelance business will hopefully take off some day. Before you know it, you’ll be part of a team…and that will involve a whole slew of newness.
All of a sudden, company culture is a real thing. How will you create an environment that is conducive to the personalities of the people working with you and the values you believe in?
Company Culture Defined
The culture of a company encompasses more than just the type of music playing in the background or the dress code employees follow.
According to entrepreneur.com, company culture includes the way team members feel, think and act. Viewed with that definition in mind, the culture of a company is extremely important.
Company Culture Considerations for Small Teams
How can a formerly flying-solo freelancer purposefully create a company culture when that ‘company’ is only a few employees?
- Look for a sign. A logo or symbol that embodies the personality of the company can be a uniting element that helps to drive the corporate culture.
- Establish core competencies. Everyone needs to know their strengths and what they can contribute to the company. Channel those core competencies into creating the best product and the best company possible. Brian Chesky, co-founder and CEO of Airbnb, draws an analogy like this: the company is a child and the founders are the parents. It’s heartbreaking if parents outlive their child; similarly it’s tragic if the founders outlive the company. Commit to creating something that will endure.
- Vocalize your mission. As cliché as it may be, even the smallest of companies needs a mission statement. A well-written mission statement can clearly define the direction of the company and provide guidelines for accomplishing its goals.
- Evaluate the current culture. A careful reflection on the company’s current culture can provide insight into the changes (if any) that need to be made. By comparing the existing culture with the desired future culture, business owners are able to determine what areas need to be addressed and remedied.
- Develop key principles. Make a list of the ‘must-haves’ for culture. Involve the entire team in the development of this list, giving everyone a sense of ownership and buy-in.
- Be specific. Alfred Lin, the former CEO and chairman of Zappos, says, “Don’t be vague with your core values. Honesty, integrity, teamwork, and service are great, but if you don’t understand why those are your core values, you haven’t thought through it well enough.”
- Connect with the company culture. All decisions should be made through the filter of supporting the culture of the company. New hires should be carefully evaluated to determine if they are a fit for the culture. Business decisions that impact the workplace, workflow or dynamics of the company must fit within the cultural structure in order for the business to develop.
- Work as a team. Everyone needs to go all in—together. As Monica Cardone, COO of Chargebacks911, says, “I do not subscribe to the belief that the climb to the top needs to be lonely. It is a team effort that is fueled equally by dedication and comradeship.”
Companies with a strong culture tend to be more successful and become some of the best places to work. Even with a small staff, the culture of the company can be a determining factor in how the business relates to clients, vendors and other employees.
How can you impact the culture of your business today?