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09.26.2014 Sharon Spano, Ph.D.

3 Reasons Why Entrepreneurs Should Define Their Business Culture

As an entrepreneur, you probably don’t think too much about your business culture.  Culture is one of those mysterious ideas that permeates our business like sunshine through a clear glass window. It’s there. We just don’t pay much attention to it.

I’m going to suggest that you get really clear on what your culture is because if you’re not conscious about what it is, you may find that very same culture working against your business.

If you’re wondering what I mean by culture, here’s the easiest way to think about it.  Your corporate or business culture is a made up of the values, beliefs, rituals, myths, symbols, and,yes, even silent taboos, that you and your team develop over time.

Entrepreneur magazine further adds: “Whether written as a mission statement, spoken, or merely understood, corporate culture describes and governs the ways a company’s owners and employees think, feel, and act.”

Let me give you three very specific reasons why you’ll want to dig in and define your culture.

1. Your Business Culture Helps You Make Better Hiring Decisions

It’s very simple. In business, we attract what we believe in. When you have a clearly defined culture, you attract people who align with that culture.

Here’s an example of what I mean.

Just the other day, my husband and I were having a conversation about a real estate owner/broker he met in New York some months ago.  This gentleman is very prominent in the business. In a passing conversation, this man remarked that he had a very prestigious agent who wanted to join his real estate team.  Even though the prospective agent had a six-figure plus track record in sales, the owner/broker mentioned that he was going to pass on this particular opportunity.

When my husband inquired as to why he would let such a seasoned and accomplished agent slip by, the broker’s response was simple, yet profound.  Apparently, that specific agent did not fit their culture.

When you know your culture and what it is you stand for, you have the opportunity to attract the best people.  Additionally, you save yourself a great deal of time and money that might otherwise be wasted on people who will never, for whatever reason, fit into your business.

You are only as good as the people around you, so it’s worth the time and effort to define your culture.  I can promise you that when you do, you will find yourself surrounded by more high quality people than you could have ever imagined.

2. Your Business Culture Helps You Manage the Day-to-Day Challenges

My team and I used to joke that running and growing a business was like changing a flat tire while driving.  I love that analogy because I think it represents the life of an entrepreneur.  If you’re in business for yourself, it can sometimes feel like you're moving and standing still all once. We are wearing so many hats, making so many daily decisions, that it’s often challenging to just get through the day.

When you know your culture, you not only have the best people surrounding your growth, you’re also better equipped to manage the many day-to-day activities and challenges.  Any business owner knows that dilemmas and hard choices arise out of nowhere.  For the business owner who understands his culture, those issues are quickly resolved.

Decisions are never made on the bottom-line alone.  Rather, decisions are made, choices are exercised, and dilemmas resolved based on a commitment to do that which is best for the company.

A clearly defined culture gives you the ability to do that which is right and just—all this assuming, of course, that culture stems from values of integrity, trust, and honorable intentions.

3. Your Business Culture Crystalizes Your Brand

You can have the greatest logo, website, or marketing strategy, but if you and your team aren’t walking the talk, none of this matters.

Your culture crystalizes your brand and while it may seem that people are buying your brand, what they are really buying is your culture.

Think about this for just a moment.  If you’ve ever flown on Southwest Airlines, you know that part of their brand includes their bright colors and logo.  It also includes the lighthearted approach of their flight attendants and a “choose your own seat” style of boarding.

While each of these features are nice and entertaining, let me suggest that what we really buy is a culture of customer service that says we want you to enjoy your experience with us.  And, oh, by the way, we care about you so much, we do our best to depart and arrive on time and to offer you the best price options.

You get the point.  Culture, culture, culture is what defines your business.

Think of your culture this way.  It’s the package that houses the essence of who you are as a company, and it begins with you, as the business owner.  When your internal and external customers fully understand who you are and what you stand for, they become loyal, raving fans—you have repeat business and the opportunity to grow your company beyond your wildest dreams.

Next Steps for Your Business:

Spend some time defining your Values and Beliefs.  What are they?  How can they be incorporated into your business?

Write out a Vision Statement.  Where do you want to take your business?  What are your strategies to get there?

How do your Vision, Values, and Strategies equate to your business model?  What systems and processes can you put in place to help your customers and your employees buy-in to your culture?

Published by Sharon Spano, Ph.D. September 26, 2014