Culture is one of those topics that, when brought up, tends to elicit varying responses and reactions.

Some see it as pie-in-the-sky, mumbo-jumbo talk about touchy-feely things, and not necessarily relevant to the bottom line. Others, see it as the very lifeblood of their business and the primary driver which determines the success or failure of their bottom line.

Wherever you fall in the spectrum, one thing is for sure. Your business has its own culture.

You could have a vibe in your company that feels similar to Nike’s CEO, Mark Parker’s thoughts, “We have a culture where we are incredibly self critical, we don’t get comfortable with our success.” Or, you could sound more like John Mackey of Whole Foods, as he says, “If you are lucky enough to be someone’s employer, then you have a moral obligation to make sure people do look forward to coming to work in the morning.”

Either way, you have a unique culture. And that culture matters to everyone who interacts with your company, whether you realize it or not.

Mark Zuckerberg says, “I think as a company, if you can get those two things right — having a clear direction on what you are trying to do and bringing in great people who can execute on the stuff — then you can do pretty well.” Obviously, this is a simplistic statement to the complex challenge of running a business. But, every business owner would be well-served to attempt to understand the profound message contained in the above quote.  

Let’s break it down: 1) Understand where you’re going. Far too often in the business world, especially small businesses, the direction of where they are going is fuzzy at best. “I want to get more customers.” “I want to increase my revenue.” “I want people to know that we’re the best in the area.” As the leader, it’s your responsibility (read: privilege) to set the course.

Be clear. Be vigilant. Be confident. And then, relentlessly head in that direction.

And, 2) Bringing in great people who can execute on the stuff.  Here’s what important to understand about this statement. YOU are the first of those “great” people.

So, are you being great?

Everything, and I mean everything, trickles down from your leadership. Your leadership ultimately determines the vibe of your company.

Are you kind and positive? Do you complain a lot? Are you driven and motivated? Do you take shortcuts? Do you find ways to lift people up? Are you critical with your staff and/or customers? All of these things fuze together to form the temperature of your culture. How warm, or cold, is it?

Know this… Your culture, as it is, attracts a certain type of person. And those who aren’t attracted to the culture you’re creating, most likely won’t stick around long.

If you’re serious about creating a solid business that positively influences others, this list will give you a few pointers in growing your culture in such a way that it becomes dynamic and irresistible.

  • Start by paying attention. Begin by actively being aware of how you interact with others. Take mental notes of your interactions. Or, if you’re a writer, jot them down in a notebook. Then, begin observing those people who come through your “doors”, whether those doors are literal or hypothetical. Watch and listen to your team members. of this will begin to give you an understanding of what people experience as staff and customers in your business.
  • Know your people. As individuals. Greet everyone by name. Care about what matters to them. Their birthday; their anniversaries; the things they are celebrating; the things they are struggling with. Ask questions and really listen to understand their answers. Talk about more than just business. And, once you ask, take it a step further and write the important things down so you don’t forget.
  • Treat every person you interact with like your friend. At the end of the day, people care about two things: making a difference and being known. Be conversational – in your interactions, in your writing, in your calls. Treat people like friends.
  • Out love and out give. This absolutely works. Take every opportunity to give better and love better than anyone else in your company.
  • Treat work as though it’s the most fun thing you do. As unfortunate as it may be, people are selfish. People don’t care that you don’t have enough customers (they already probably think/assume you’re making a killer income.) That you are working 12-14 hour days. What they want to know is that you love what you do. And that you care that they are there. Outside of the majority, there will be a few who genuinely care about you and your challenges/celebrations, lean into them for support. But for the rest, make them the hero of the story.
  • Be inspirational. Make a difference. People are watching you. All the time. As the owner/leader, what you do and what you say matters. Make it count.
  • Take every opportunity to make introductions. Be the best networker in your space. Make it a point to make connections, so it’s easier for others to truly connect.
  • Be a leader. An old Proverb says, “Where there is no vision, the people perish”. You have to know where you are going, and then not be afraid to make decisions in order to get there. Take charge and invite others to follow.

How do people feel when they experience/interact with your business for the first time?

The CEO’s, Owners, and Leadership teams who pay attention to this and make a concerted effort to constantly be improving their culture, will be the ones who will rise above and differentiate themselves within the massive sea of competition.

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