Every company or organization has a culture. If we, as leaders, don’t create it, someone else will…and it likely won’t be the positive, growth-oriented, customer-focused, success culture we want. Creating a strong culture for our companies is one of the most important responsibilities we have as leaders.
Define Your Culture
A positive culture is defined by a set of values and behaviors that you want to develop, cultivate and reinforce and have your team fulfill each day. Your company’s culture will—when developed and reinforced properly—cause your team members to make smart decisions and work towards fulfilling the company’s goals. As leaders of our companies, we have the opportunity to create a culture of engaged, empowered, results-oriented people. It all begins with you (and your management team if you have one) spending time setting the company’s vision, values and goals.
Once you have created the vision, values and goals, the next step is to communicate them to and continually reinforce them with the team. And it is more than just speaking, it is also how we as leaders act: we must demonstrate our culture in our actions. This includes how we treat our team members, interact with customers, and act every day.
Put the Writing on the Wall
We lead by example and can set an optimistic tone to build our business in an upbeat way. At FASTSIGNS International, I named “Inspiration Hall” as an outward representation of our culture. I put the writing on the wall (literally with vinyl lettering) so everyone who visits our corporate office may view our favorite quotations and motivational words of wisdom along with our company’s 4 key strategic objectives.
It takes more than just communicating the company’s vision and values once or “writing them on the wall”, creating and maintaining a company’s culture requires consistent reinforcement and repetition. At your regular team meetings, look for ways to reinforce the culture: praise actions and results that reflect the culture, share stores, etc. Share the company’s goals in ways the team can understand them and help achieve them. Keep the team apprised of the company’s progress toward achieving the goals. Celebrate successes.
Hire and Train the Right People
Build a strong culture by hiring the right team members with positive attitudes and appropriate skills. Our businesses can reinforce our culture by making business and talent (promotion, hiring and firing) decisions in line with the culture we want to create. After all, our employees are critical to our success, serving our customers, producing our products and handling our installations. When a team member exhibits consistent negativity, for the good of the entire team, that person needs to move on to different employment.
Another best practice and key to maintaining a positive culture is the ongoing training and development of team members so can do their jobs well and grow in their careers. Enhancing the skills of all of employees demonstrates their value to you and prepares them to take on greater responsibility in your organization. It also improves the morale of staff, a key to positive culture. This training can include cross training by key staff members, including cross departmental training; online training; technology training conducted by vendors; attendance at local industry events; etc. From initial training to cross training, we can further develop the sales, business and production skills to ensure ongoing development as part of our company culture and responsibility. Training the production staff in sales and the sales staff in production will build understanding of each other’s challenges and the ability to cover for one another when the unexpected occurs.
Maintain a Neat, Organized, Uncluttered Work Space
Create a positive, uncluttered work environment. Ensure that both your front office or showroom look clean, organized and appealing as well as your production area. Why is this important? The appearance of the production area and employee lunchroom communicates a message to the team that they matter. Disney is known for their outstanding culture. One way Disney accomplishes this is by keeping the backside of Disney parks (the side the guests never see) as clean and organized as the parks are.
Communicate Goals and Share Results
Share your company’s short term and long term goals with the team. Ensure the company’s goals are top-of-mind for all team members. Post goals and update them often so all know your progress. At FASTSIGNS International, we communicate our goals at monthly company meetings and share financial statements all the way down to earnings after taxes, so every employee is informed. It’s my experience that without exposure and education, most employees have little understanding of the expenses involved in operating a business. It’s not uncommon for employees to believe that profits are as high as 75 to 80 percent of sales.
While sharing financial results is a decision made by each company leader, I have done so in every leadership position. Prior to joining FASTSIGNS, only the executive team saw the company’s financial results. Even managers were uninformed about the company’s financial performance even though they were in position to manage and reduce expenses. Now, our team reviews the financials, talks about where we are going and shares our insights on the future.
Champion a Cause
Most of us desire to make the world better. By championing a cause, we build a business culture that cares and connects with a nonprofit or a cause-driven organization. Consider selecting a local charity—or have the team decide on the cause—and work together to support the cause. The most engaged employees are from the “helping” careers; while sign making is not truly a “helping” career, we can add that facet to our team by getting involved in a worthy cause.
Consider Incentives and Other Rewards and Recognition
Having every member of the team working together to achieve the company’s goals is powerful. The most successful sign and visual graphics companies I know post the monthly sales goal for all to see and update progress toward achieving the monthly goal daily. The team knows that there is one level of bonus for all when the goal is achieved and higher levels of bonus for exceeding the goal by various amounts. Monthly goals should tie to the company’s business plan and sales growth, month after month, should be built in to the goals.
After a great week or completion of a particularly tough project, surprise the team with a treat: maybe a pizza lunch or some other treat. When a team member does something extraordinary, reward them with movie tickets, a gift certificate, etc. When someone solves a tough challenge, sells a big job, handles a unhappy customer with great care, recognize, appreciate and celebrate that success
Listen and Build Rapport
Build rapport with your team by asking about their family and learn important dates or meaningful events. Regularly ask employees for their feedback to learn what matters to them. Our FASTSIGNS executive team invites our employees to luncheons called “Table Talk” to get to know each other, discuss ideas for improving the company and make work life more efficient.
Celebrate Your Culture and Have FUN!
While working hard, have fun and let creativity flow during the work day. At FASTSIGNS, we hold an annual Thanksgiving potluck, holiday luncheons, summer BBQs and regular Lunch and Learn opportunities. We celebrate important milestones with banners to welcome new staff members, recognize employee tenure, wedding anniversaries, births, education milestones and more. Our corporate culture also includes a “Fun Team” that meets regularly to plan events like Independence Day cookouts.
A Little Effort Goes a Long Way
By making the time to determine the culture you want and investing time in creating and reinforcing it, you will make a positive difference in your team and your business.