Why culture matters to the entrepreneur: part 2

Editor’s note: This is the second of two parts. Read part 1.

Brandon Berumen and Lenee Koch – a brother-sister team who founded and run LEI Companies, a highly respected electrical contracting company in Denver — know that by attending to the “hidden, unseen” element of their company’s infrastructure, it is not being left to chance. But what does that mean in action?

Defining culture. Culture is the actual ways people work together that either helps or hinders achievement of key strategies and goals. Culture is not morale, although a healthy culture has one. Culture is not simply the values of the owner, although those are fertilizer for good soil. Culture is the cumulative day-to-day behaviors that ensure people execute the company’s projects and plans – or don’t. Culture is the chemistry that produces happy soil, which produces great plants.

How does culture show up in a business? The most tangible ways a culture can be seen is in the processes for how:

o People are hired, promoted, developed, and let go;
o Decisions are made (who makes them and how fast);
o Teams and projects are launched and gain traction (or wither from lack of leadership);
o Consistent customer experiences are built, adopted and evolved.

To cultivate a great culture, employees need to be encouraged and shown specific behaviors that will help make your business better and stronger. Often, leaders unintentionally fuel confusion, apathy, or lack of accountability by:

o Making key decisions with little or no input from those who will implement.
o Hiring approaches that overly sell a candidate on the job, versus the other way around.
o Whipsaw change that doesn’t link to a cohesive theme or vision, resulting in confused priorities.
o Setting direction that leaves troops to guess and mind-read what to do differently.
o Making speeches about “meeting numbers” that have no benefit or relevance to employees.
o Rewarding behaviors and keeping employees who are counter-productive and violate the stated values of the leader or company.

One good “PH” test of a company with a great cultural soil: When people leave the company, do they vocally wish they hadn’t? Do they tell others “That company was the best place I ever worked”? If you want a quick way to take a good soil sample of your culture, poll your employees (through Survey Monkey or some other anonymous method) by asking three open-ended questions:

1) Why specifically do you like to work here?
2) How would you describe our vision and strategy?
3) What is the unique distinction we offer to our customers and market?

This simple analysis is not a full diagnosis of your culture, but it will tell you a lot about the degree of alignment and consistency you have within and across your team or organization.

Heed the advice of entrepreneurs who know: If you want emerge from tough times with a rich harvest, break out your gardening hat and start tilling your soil.
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Categories: Management & Leadership