"If you don't build an intentional company culture, it will build itself--and, believe me, you will not like the results." This is a line from my speech about why, and how, entrepreneurs must identify the values, vision, and motivating force behind growing a highly successful company.

While a positive culture is the very foundation of a thriving company, I find that many entrepreneurs aren't aware, or simply can't grasp, the importance of investing in it. In many cases, entrepreneurs come to me complaining about a team of disgruntled, unproductive, employees and unhappy customers. There's no surprise here since a Gallup poll identifies that 70% of U.S. workers are not engaged at work, and some 30% have no idea of what is expected of them.

Establishing your company's values may have been the last thing on your mind when you launched. If that's true, now is the time to transform yourself from an entrepreneur into a true leader. It's time to create an intentional culture that engages --even delights-- employees, delivers exceptional customer service, and reaches its full earnings potential.

Do you have a strategic vision and highly desirable brand identity?

Here's an exercise to determine how reality aligns with your desired results. I suggest you construct a visual as you form your answers: a mindmap, a list, or a journal entry.

First, imagine an avatar of your most ideal customer. Now ask yourself, "If this customer were describing his/her experience of working with my organization, what would I most want them to say?" Once you've answered the question, take an honest assessment of where you're at with this aspect of your brand identity today. Would most, if not all, of your customers be compelled to voice such a testimonial? If not, consider what they might actually say and write that down as well.

Now repeat this process from the perspective of your ideal employee. "If this employee were describing his/her experience of working within my organization, what would I most want them to say?" Now, what do you think they'd really say?

I believe that most micro and small businesses fall short of their leader's ideal vision because no vision is static in nature. It's more about how far off the mark you are from your ideal. Too far?

It's time for purposeful and intentional action.

Begin by acknowledging that your company culture and employee engagement are your responsibility. To build a culture that supports the ultimate brand experience, you must create a solid vision and help employees to link what they do every day to the key elements of the company's guiding principles and strategy. This would include values, objectives, goals, key performance indicators, and behaviors.

As you establish what it means to work for and buy from your company, consistently measure employee and customer engagement. The best way to measure employee engagement is through a system of open communications: one that allows employees to express how they feel about their jobs. Do they receive enough guidance and understand what is expected of them? Are they allowed just the right amount of autonomy? How do they feel about their work environment and levels of balance and flexibility offered by the company?

You can gather this data at team meetings, through feedback portholes like surveys, and through team leaders. Encourage your employees to contribute new ideas and find fun ways to reward them for their contributions.

For customer engagement, identify key metrics and stay on top of them. Those may be numbers and frequency of website visits, conversion rates, customer retention, and overall satisfaction. Establish the most critical measurements and keep a running dashboard for ease of use.

Building and sustaining an intentional culture, one that creates positive internal and external engagement, is one of the strongest competitive advantages before you. Invest in your foundation to secure a rich and sustainable future.

Published on: Oct 11, 2016