Every day in a small business I know, 100,000 interactions happen among employees, customers, and external parties — the only way I know to align all of those interactions is through a strong company culture. So, company culture is key to growing a business and to scale. To me, a company culture is something that allows everyone to make decisions throughout every day and know that they are aligned with their colleagues. They can handle all sorts of issues with confidence that the organization will back them up because everyone is aligned. That confidence is huge for long-term satisfaction and company performance.
I have a back-of-the-envelope math exercise that demonstrates how important culture is to enabling an organization to scale and grow. Follow me for a second. At a school I own, there are 700 students and they are with us 4.5 hours every day. If every student has 5 interactions with staff and 20 interactions with other students each hour, each student has 112.5 interactions while they are at our school every day. Multiply that by 700 and that is 78,750 interactions student interactions every day. At the same time, if our staff of 115 has 10 interactions per hour with colleagues and people outside the company, that is 80 interactions per staff member per day, or 9,200 interactions for a total student and staff interactions of 87,950 every day. Let’s assume roughly 260 school days per year, or 22,867,000 interactions per year. And frankly, my guesstimates are probably low. Imagine if your organization grows to thousands of employees and millions of customers — that is a tremendous number of interactions every day.
There is no operations manual that can anticipate every nuance of our 23 million interactions. And, everything is much more efficient and smooth when everyone is aligned and able to use their own judgment on how to handle all those situations that is in alignment with the organization. There is much less double-checking or CYA with your boss. There is freedom for each employee to handle a difficult student situation in the way they deem appropriate — how many times have you seen an employee follow policy even though common sense suggests that the policy shouldn’t apply to this particular circumstance? Sometimes, employees can just make a decision that affects other people with confidence rather than having to get sign-offs, etc.
If you want to grow a business, invest in making sure that your people are aligned with your company’s purpose, cause and belief. It will pay big dividends and allow you to grow. If you do not, it will be impossible to keep people aligned and on track.
- Competitive Advantage, Company Culture, and Simon Sinek [May 16, 2012]
- Company Culture a Superman-Strong Competitive Advantage [June 26, 2012]
- Enemies of Effective Company Cultures — Ideas from James Heskett [August 7, 2012]
Related articles from Other Sources
- Company Culture is Defined By You and Your Actions (bretthard.in)
- Designing Company Culture (smallbizdaily.com)
- How to Shape a World-Class Company Culture (openforum.com)
- 4 Ways to Keep a Small Company Culture as Your Business Grows (news.terra.com)