Why small businesses should pay attention to company culture
The term company culture has become a common buzzword and something many companies openly discuss these days. And while it may be thanks to companies like Google and Facebook, well-known for offering their employees endless amounts of free food, on-site massages, the ability to bring your dog to work, gym memberships, and ample new parent benefits (just to name a few), you don't have to be Google or Facebook to create a company culture your employees and others appreciate.Reach itself is a small business that has made sure to pay attention to company culture from the start, and we pride ourselves in doing so. Our chief strategist, Kelly Trace, founded the company on the principle design with purpose and has worked hard to design our company, and its culture, with purpose.Thinking about, and planning, the building blocks you want your company to stand upon can be intimidating, especially if you're a small business that has been around for any number of years. You don't have to be a new business to have a company culture that fosters creativity, openness and love for the job at hand—you can start designing with purpose at any time—even today! So, what insights can Reach offer you when it comes to creating a culture your company can get behind? Here are five tips (and even some Reacher (that's what we call ourselves) feedback, on just that...
- Encourage open communication. Being a small business often means that many people on the team wear multiple hats and experience the business from multiple dimensions. As a company grows, though, communication can become tangled. Avoid the breakdown of communication by creating a space where everyone feels open to talk and seek help/advice when needed.At Reach, we do this a number of ways.First, we gather weekly for team meetings. This time is set in our calendars and hardly ever wavers. We use these meetings to catch up on clients, offer "hoots and salutes" (a time where we recognize coworkers that have helped us out during the week), talk through situations we aren't able to handle on our own, and so on.The second way we communicate openly is through Google Hangouts. If you remember anything about AOL Instant Messenger, then you already know what Google Hangouts is without even using it. Every member of our team is in Google Hangouts and are able to message, in real time, to the entire group, particular individuals, or even a small number of people, depending on what the communication needs are in that moment. Brittany Cable, one of our newest account managers, says her favorite thing about Reach's company culture is the open communication and family atmosphere... and by family atmosphere, she probably means the conversations that take place in Google Hangouts that aren't necessarily work-related, like checking up on each other during Hurricane Matthew last weekend.
- Foster shared beliefs. Creating a set of shared beliefs ensures that everyone has a framework for how to set priorities, make decisions, treat clients, and treat each other. To do this, you must really first consider a person's attitude when hiring them. One bad hire can have a huge affect on your team’s morale, productivity, and, ultimately, your bottom line.While it's not always a good idea to mix business with pleasure, there are many employees at Reach that have known each other for many years. From being grade school friends to working together at previous jobs, Kelly has thought long and hard about the different people she has brought into Reach and how their beliefs will ultimately affect our company. The Reachers that have come on as "completely new to us" have always been interviewed by more than one Reacher, in order for Kelly to get a true perspective on how that person will fit in at Reach and with our clients.Kristine, our web strategy manager, and Franki, our fall intern, both said they love Reach's "tribe", aka our support network. It's because of the shared beliefs we hold at Reach that we are able to be supportive of one another in many aspects of life, not just when it comes to work.#ProTip: To keep your company's core beliefs fresh in everyone's mind, consider writing them down somewhere highly visible and refer back to them whenever necessary.
- Give your employees more responsibility. Having a system of checks and balances is key, but sometimes it’s also a good idea to give your employees a chance to take the lead. Trusting an employee to make decisions can be a big leap of faith, but it can also make that employee feel empowered and own their work. When I asked Kelly about what she'd add to this blog, she said, "As a CEO, you work so hard to make sure you can find people who will essentially cover the tasks you used to do yourself, and I can rest easy knowing our clients are in very capable hands." It probably wasn't easy for Kelly to let go of the reins and give us room to take the lead as our company began to grow, but if she were still trying to "do it all", our clients would suffer and our company wouldn't be where it is today.
- Encourage continuous learning. Remember those weekly meetings I mentioned earlier? Not only do we use that time for everything I said previously, but we almost always include a training of some sort during that time, too. As our agency director, Lindsey, shares, it's our time to "nerd out over tech/marketing stuff together. Sooo, really, I guess I'm saying I appreciate our collaboration and our focus on keeping sharp". We learn from each other during this time, and learning from your peers is some of the best learning you can do.On top of these trainings, we are paid for professional development time, too. From reading about the top trends in marketing to attending conferences that will help us grow as individuals in our field, educating ourselves so we offer the best resources to our clients is key to our company culture. As Megan, another account manager at Reach, put it, "New perspectives and ideas keep the content we provide fresh, helpful and relevant."
- Think outside of your business. If a company expects employees to love its customers (or clients, in our case), the company must first love its employees. At Reach we include a lot activities outside of the office because having fun with each other is just one of the things we value.So many people comment on the social media posts we share, where we're out to lunch together, or celebrating the end of a long event weekend for a client with extreme trampolining, saying, "Man, I'd love to play all day at Reach, too!" But we promise—it's not just playing to us. It's time spent ensuring us Reachers don't get bogged down with the stressful aspects of work that could potentially lead us to not enjoying our work altogether anymore.Thinking outside of your business could also mean creating an atmosphere your employees enjoy. While the space you work in doesn't directly correlate with the job at hand, having a space that is inviting, comfortable, and even unique certainly won't hurt your bottom line. So yes, that is why we have standing desks, a couch, a futon, mood lighting, and a lot of orange at Reach. These things make our little office fun to be in and so much more enjoyable to work in.
While many poeple see Reach as a fun place to work, it's really much more than that. We've put a lot of thought into the company we want to be for ourselves and for our clients, and creating a company culture was key in making those decisions.