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Do you have Business Culture?

4th January 2015

By Wayne Hall

Does your business have its own distinctive, culture? And does it matter?

In my experience, your company’s culture is something you invest a lot of time, effort and energy in. In any business, especially a small one, your team are the heart and foundation of the service you provide. How well they provide it reflects directly on the business culture you’ve created – and if it’s at all negative, there’s an excellent chance it will appear that way to your clients, too.

Having a team who are inspired by your company and how it treats, educates and ultimately value them has a staggeringly positive effect on your business’s dynamics. It makes Work a great place to be, and can eradicate the ‘Sunday-night blues’ feeling you hear so many people talk about.

Last year at Impact we made a huge effort and took a long, hard look at our own culture. There have inevitably been hiccups, but we‘ve addressed them quickly, and so far it’s working well – to the extent that we’ve been awarded ‘Investors in People accreditation at our first application.

So, what made the difference? Here are my top tips.

Make it about the company, not individuals. When we talk about our successes or failures, we always bring it back to Impact as a brand. It’s irrelevant who owns or runs it: everyone in the business needs to buy into it.

Go open-plan. I’m the MD, but my desk’s now in our studio, not an office. This simple change has opened up an entirely new level of communication within the company. We all see each other’s ups, downs and frustrations every day and it really does help. Seeing for myself issues someone’s having with technology or systems, for example, makes me want to get them sorted quickly, and to the individual’s expectations. Equally, the team can overhear my conversations with clients and suppliers, so they see the stresses and strains of life ‘at the top’, and how hard it can be to resolve issues that aren’t necessarily our fault. Everyone shares the good and bad parts of the day, creating a mutually supportive environment.

Invest in your surroundings. We spend so much time at work, it makes sense that it should be a nice place to be. Our offices were nice enough, but we’ve invested in decoration, upgrading the loos, quality TVs, a pool table, a break out area and so on. We also offer free cold drinks, run a heavily subsidised tuck shop with all proceeds going to charity, and have fresh fruit delivered weekly for everyone to enjoy. In 2015, we’re re-designating our board room as a pleasant, creative daily workspace, rather than reserving it for occasional meetings. We’re also upgrading the kitchen, and building a patio area outside the front door for sunny days.

Be proactive. The most difficult one! A year on, it still requires constant thinking. You have to take time to look at your team, environment, processes and equipment, and talk to people before things happen rather than after. It’s so much better to have considered solutions than reactive ones. Be warned, though: this is a continuous venture that requires dedication.

Don’t beat yourself up or be discouraged if you get it wrong. This is most important. You can’t please everyone all the time, or even expect to get it right most of the time. All you can do is have a damn good go at it – and trust me: your team will thank you for it.