Everyone likes culture. It defines us as people. Where we live and call home, the music that moves our souls, the art we appreciate, etc. One area that people who are starting their own businesses forget about is the culture of the organization which they have founded and/or are running today. In my opinion, the culture of an organization is right up there with making your product or service the best it can be and marketing your company so that the masses know who you.
Many entrepreneurs get out of the “corporate rat race” because of the culture, or lack thereof. People leave because they say “my company doesn?t listen to my ideas” or “I am just another number, not someone with a name who is appreciated”, among other comments.
No matter what phase of the process your company is in, you need to clearly understand and be able to articulate what the culture of your organization is all about. Here are a few things to think about.
The No Asshole Policy
When I worked in Corporate America, I had a client of mine for a mid-size organization who preached about a “No Asshole Policy” that was enterprise wide. I sort of laughed, and went on about my business. He stopped me and told me that he wasn’t making a funny comment, rather he was being completely serious. It really made me stop and think. The more I thought about this, it made perfect sense to me. You can be honest, direct, and up-front with your employees, but you don?t have to demoralize people when doing so. You might be thinking “yeah, no kidding”, but really, it is easy to get caught up in the moment and forget this. On the contrary, we all have been afraid to tell someone that their idea isn’t right for the company right now (maybe ever), and this can end up spinning you in multiple directions and spending money on things that will have no benefit to the company. However, if everyone in your company is on the same page, it makes it much easier because you are having the conversation in a respectful manner, and people will appreciate you for that.
Be Accessible To Your Employees
When adding employees to your company, remember why you are doing so. You are adding people to represent your company in whatever facet it may be. You have hired a specific person for a specific reason. Remind yourself why you hired them, and remind
that person why you hired them on a consistent basis. Also, learn who that person is. I am not saying you need to be able to know the intricate details of their life, but people like feeling appreciated. Encouraging this relationship will help everyone be more cohesive and work together better for the betterment of your company.
Be Accessible To Your Customers
I recently read a book titled “Leading for Growth: How Umpqua Bank Got Cool and Created A Culture Of Greatness” by Ray Davis, the CEO of Umpqua Bank, a regional bank in the Pacific Northwest U.S. (Before I carry on, if you haven?t read the book, I highly recommend it.) When they pick up the phone, they say “Thanks for calling the world’s greatest bank, Umpqua Bank”. Think about how that sounds to a customer. I bet that greeting is much different than what you get you call your bank. Also, I bet their customers really believe their bank IS the world’s greatest bank. Another thing that Ray Davis did was set up a direct phone line (like the Batphone) in the lobbies of the stores. Customers who are in the bank can pick up the phone and it rings directly to him, the CEO of the company. They can tell him anything, praise, complaint, an idea, or whatever. Again, think about how a customer would feel about that. Now, take some of those ideas and think about how you can create customer intimacy in your organization between you, the Founder/CEO and the end customer, the one who is allowing you to do what you love to do. It is a Win-Win scenario for everyone.
Remember Where You Came From
It is easy to follow these points when you are at the grass roots level, but figure out a way to remind yourself to follow these things as your company grows. If you have to, put a sign above your door in the office like the one that the Notre Dame football players slap on Saturday’s in South Bend. It will help you differentiate your company to potential employees and customers.
Ryan Duwe is the Co-Founder of Simple60, which trains users how to use their Apple Computers via the iChat application.
Category: Startup Advice