In your quest for business expansion, don't turn a blind eye to company culture. Maintaining a cohesive culture is crucial for increasing productivity and reducing turnover as you grow your organization. The more employees you have, the harder you must work to make them feel connected to the company -- and to each other.
These six entrepreneurs share the ways in which they promote culture at their own rapidly growing organizations.
Don't force it.
A set-it-and-forget-it approach doesn't work for fostering company culture. Brennan White, CEO of intelligent creative decision-making platform Cortex, recognizes that culture creation must be an ongoing effort involving genuine team-building moments.
"My rule is 'less cheese, more meat,' meaning I don't treat company culture as something that can be forced (through cheesy work events) but instead try to facilitate quality moments," he says. "A team is made up of individuals with varied interests. I spend time finding out what those interests are and then facilitate events, conversations and other genuine human moments around them."
Celebrate events and achievements.
Nicole Smartt, shareholder and vice president of Bay-Area staffing agency Star Staffing, doesn't let a birthday or team win go by without taking the opportunity to highlight it. This recognition not only makes individual team members smile but also contributes to an overall culture of engagement.
"As a company that has graced Inc.'s fastest-growing companies list three years in a row, we are constantly focused on engagement, productivity and cohesive culture," she says. "We recognize celebratory events like anniversaries and birthdays, pass out 'wow' cards to thank individuals for doing something that aligns with our values and highlight standout culture ambassadors in our quarterly newsletter."
Demonstrate your values.
"You must decide what it is that you want to grow (your value or values) and nurture it at regular intervals," says Kevin Conner, founder and CEO of broadband shopping search engine BroadbandSearch. That means you must be present within your company to demonstrate the values that you want your team to internalize. And remember: "If you are doubling the size of your company, you must work twice as hard to be present."
"For example, one of our values is to be vision-focused," Conner adds. "The leaders of our company meet once a week to discuss three-month, six-month and 12-month visions and what we are doing to move those visions forward each and every week."
As companies grow and offices span multiple locations, it can be difficult to keep everyone on the same page. That's why Dave Shah, co-founder and CEO of app development company Wve Labs, encourages his team to share day-to-day stories -- and then disseminates them company-wide.
"Two years ago, when we had five employees, I decided to incorporate storytelling into the core of our company to heighten human connection. We are now a workforce of 85 with offices in four countries," he says. "Each week, our teams meet within their respective offices and tell stories about interesting client interactions, exceptional experiences with other employees, etc. Select stories are then circulated throughout our offices, creating a cohesive culture capable of rapid scaling."
Share inside jokes.
Bryce Welker, CEO of LSAT review service Crush The LSAT, doesn't underestimate the power of an inside joke to bring team members together. And, thanks to modern collaboration tools, jokes and memes can be shared across channels and remote teams, too.
"While they are understood today as silly pictures shared online, memes and memetic imagery are the backbones of any culture. Coming up with fun inside jokes or colloquial terms is a great way to create a cohesive company culture," he says. "Our business Slack server has a chatbot that will respond to memes in a way that keeps us on our toes."
Make culture everyone's job.
"Crowdsource your company values from all employees instead of allowing leaders to force them from the top down," says Ben Davis, founder and CEO of men's grooming and lifestyle club The Gents Place. This allows employees to feel that they have ownership over the culture so everyone is more likely to buy into it.
"We've been able to maintain our culture in rapid-growth mode by keeping our values top of mind," adds Davis. "We have our values printed on posters in each of our break rooms, give out peer-voted culture awards on a quarterly basis and even have a formal 'culture leader' in each of our clubs responsible for keeping the culture intact."