From the minute an organization is born, a company culture is installed within it. For those start ups that cannot afford to hire employees at the inception point, the culture is enshrined within the values and beliefs of the founding members and so culture will play a smaller role limited to these individuals at this stage.
But every company, no matter how big, needs a starting point and this is also applicable to multinational corporations, such as Virgin, Microsoft and Facebook, who all began in a similar way. Sir Richard Branson, Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg would all have gone through the same motions at the beginning, an idea as how their business can change the world, but an initial lack of manpower to achieve the heights they were dreaming of. Today they are the figureheads of their respective and very successful organizations, employing thousands of people and the culture instilled at the beginning of their business journey plays a fundamental role in the lifeblood and day to day running of their companies.
Taking on Employees:
Company culture will start taking a much more prominent role within an organization as it starts to grow and employees are hired to help build the business “fantasy.” The founding values and beliefs will start rubbing off on the employees as they work closely on a day-to-day level within the organization and they start learning the knowledge and the company way of doing things.
With Invasion, when we first recruited employees and we started to expand beyond the team consisting of just myself and my business partner Lee McAteer, we had to personally teach and train them to do things the way we knew best. I was essentially creating ‘duplicates’ of myself by sharing my knowledge with the staff of how I did things because, as the old saying goes ‘knowledge is power’. If I could clone myself, then the issue of staffing would be diminished, but we live in a world of finite resources and finite knowledge, so it’s very important that business owners train their staff so that their knowledge and way of doing things within an organization is at a very advanced level.
Throughout this training, the owner’s way of doing things and the organizational culture will rub off onto the employees. Further down the line, when it comes to these employees having to eventually train further new employees, the organizational knowledge and culture that they picked up from the owner, will also rub from them to the next generation employee; so the organizational culture and way of doing things would have reached the second employee, potentially without them ever having met the initial founders.
As an organization continues to grow, eventually it will appear on the radar of its competitors. When this happens, a battle of culture will emerge as each company tries to pitch to its customers why their product or service is superior; and culture plays an important role within the heart and foundations of this pitch.
From my own personal experience with Invasion, the established companies when pitching seem to have a false sense of “divine right” to these customers. Phrases like “we have been around longer”, “we know the market better”, “we are bigger and better than the competition” are thrown about all too easily by the established companies who seem to have an almost patronising sense of security and antipathy at the thought that their superiority should be threatened by a new company that thinks they can do it better than they can.
A classic example to illustrate this is that of the disdain attitude shown by British Airways to Virgin Atlantic when they launched into the aviation industry. However, what the established companies under appreciate is that the market is always changing and always evolving and organisations have to be on their toes and constantly innovating and staying in touch with the latest developments and crazes to maintain their existence. Whereas an existing company has it’s old and traditional ‘tried and tested’ methods of success, usually a new company with new idea’s and a fresh perspective is much better served to make inroads to taking away customers from established competitors and to grow the market by advertising themselves as a young and hip company that is more in touch with the times; which ultimately will deliver a better customer experience.
What should company culture be?
The truth is that there is no right answer as to what company culture should be because every culture is different for every company which stems down to what the underlying motivation was for the creation of the organization on day one; whether it was to change the world, to do things better than the competition, or to exploit a potential gap in the market. This makes finding the right people at the beginning who share the same motivation of vital importance to an organization, as the founding individual(s) pass on their knowledge and way of doing things to these employees in the form of delegation, who can continue the company mission. There is no denying that delegation is hard for business owners, who have almost perfect knowledge of their product (and the issue of delegation is a whole different topic in itself); but if you can find the right people and invest your time in training and enlightening them, it will make delegation much easier.
Employee action plan
Business owners should therefore come up with an employee action plan to maximise
their growth within an organization. Assuming that you have found the right candidate to help grow your business and they are fully trained, the next stage is to encourage employee entrepreneurship. By setting up a company, you will display entrepreneurial characteristics in abundance, e.g. being an independent free spirit, creativity, passion, leadership, vision, a driving personality, initiative as well as a ‘can do’ attitude and you should encourage your employees to display these skills as well. For an employee to maximise their growth, this involves the business owner taking on board their ideas and coming up with a strategy to implement this and turn their ideas into reality. Therefore it is very important that there is a strategy in place to encourage and reward employee ideas and initiative, which in the long run will help drive the business forward. In addition, goals should be set together with the employee so that both parties are on the same page as to what needs to be achieved in order for the company to progress and move forward.
Having the right people in place, who have a very in depth knowledge of the company is essential for company culture to thrive in accordance with the founders vision. Behind every brand, no matter how big or small, it comes down to the staff that are carrying out the organizational mission and making things happen and a company is only as good as the staff it employs. Therefore an organization should invest in its employees, because if an organization can build a great team, then they will build a great business and this makes employees as valuable to a business as its customers. At the beginning, when Invasion was being run out of a bedroom, if I got hit by a bus and died, Invasion would have died with me. Now, because we have fully trained staff that have knowledge about the company inside out, I know full well that Invasion could carry on without me because we have invested in the right staff who believe in the vision and core values of the company.
People often refer to an organizational team as a family and I can certainly vouch for this; as a team at Invasion, we are on a shared journey together, we learn together (and we are always learning new things everyday), we celebrate success together and we share any unfortunate tough business lessons together. Organizational culture is one of the most important things to a business because it is who you are and it is ultimately why customers will choose you and therefore it is imperative that the right conditions are fostered to allow the company culture to flourish and this will in turn make a business and its employees grow collectively together.
Nick Steiert is the CEO and Founder of Invasion. For more information, please visit www.invasion.com or you can tweet him @nicksteiert
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Category: Startup Advice