Question: I hear a lot these days about the importance of culture in a business organization. I can’t afford costly fringe benefits in my small business like larger firms can. Why is culture so important and how can I create it in my business?

Answer: Culture is important in any whether large or small. It can affect employee motivation, performance and job satisfaction as well as customer perception and loyalty. What is needed is a set of guiding principles for both business and personal actions (Business Plan and Code of Ethics) upon which the culture is built, deployed and developed. A culture of command and control doesn’t work anymore. One of commitment and doing good while doing well does work. We only need look at the news of the day to see the importance of culture in either helping an organization grow and enjoy a position of a good place to work  (a favorable ‘Employment Brand’ will help as in the periodic listings of Best Places to Work in America). We can also see the impact of a negative culture, such as the recent news of Uber being criticized for harassment as well as the CEO claiming that he ‘has to grow up’ and several executives at Samsung being indicted for criminal behavior. We can avoid these negative consequences in any organization by creating and living a culture that values people and processes in everything we do.

The first step in a small business is to establish its culture which is both a factor of what is done and how it is done. This is both a business statement (what we do) and a personal commitment (how we do it). Areas for consideration are business strategy and methods, as well as personal ethics, honesty and integrity. They are equally important. The business strategy becomes the plan. The personal elements become the Code of Ethics.

Once in place, these documents (plan and code) must become the guides to both business and personal behavior. Business operations (what we do) should focus upon providing outstanding customer service, continuous improvement, high quality products and a commitment to excellence in all aspects of production, marketing, finance and administration. Personal factors should focus on all aspects of behavior, including both internal and external relationships. Internal relationships include such behavioral factors as respect for others, open communication, continuous learning and an enduring faith in the value of good work. External relationships involve providing outstanding products and services to customers, vendors, and all stakeholders. Organizations and people need to grow in their capacity to provide the highest quality outcomes in their pursuit of excellence. Nothing less will do. This is one area where good enough is not good enough.  

Talking the talk is not enough. We all need to ‘walk the walk’, which means personally living and working according to the Code of Ethics and the Business Plan. Regular informational (discussion not lecture) meetings, continuous training, and holding people accountable to high standards of work and behavior will provide the means by which your firm, whether large or small will be one of ‘The Best Places to Work’. The right culture will pave the way.

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