Tag Archives: Culture

Addendum to building a great company culture

One thing that really resonated with me during the culture talk we had yesterday that I forgot to add to my last post was something that I really disagreed with. It happened when one of the moderators of the conversation was comparing his company culture to a family.

It sounds like a great idea in theory to have a comfy hugable family to work with all the time. However, the problem arises when the ‘parents’ (aka the founders/leaders) consider their employees their ‘children’. It was even more surprising how many people nodded in agreement. Really? Who wants to be considered a child who needs to be disciplined and talked down to all the time.

Employees are partners. They are the reason your company exists. How do you expect to have them buy-in when you consider them the lowest common denominator. It’s my opinion that employees are the reasons for success, and management should be there to support their work.

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Building great company culture

We are currently in the middle of repurposing our student-run advertising agency, Allen Hall Advertising. As a result, we are taking a hard look at our agency’s culture and trying to figure out how to create one that fosters innovation, great ideas, initiative, creativity, sustainability, etc. So it was nice to attend the core conversation on how to create a great company culture.

The conversation was moderated by Sam Decker of BazaarVoice and Jason Black of Boundless Network – both companies are known in the Austin area for fostering great company cultures. There turned out to be many nuggets of useful insights and ideas that came out of it.

Unsurprisingly, it was reiterated that central to any great culture is a shared belief in common values. This always starts with a deliberate and careful hiring process. Despite the ‘duh’ moment, the ideas on how to accomplish sharing these values were great. One good idea was to sit everyone down (maybe just everyone in a team, depending on company size) and have them tear the entire company strategy apart and rebuild it from the ground up. Your employees may not come up with an incredibly revolutionary idea, but thats ok because its not the point. The point is to offer significant investment and buy-in and to align the roles such that everyone knows how they impact the end result and the bottom line.

It was also mentioned that silos kill creativity. Keep the organization as flat as possible, skill sets as wide as possible, and ownership as shared as possible and you will foster a positive and productive culture. This works great in small entrepreneurial settings, but how do you achieve the same result in larger companies? The methods can be as simple as the CEO offering to pay for the meals of any marketer that goes to lunch with a programmer. Opening the doors to collaboration always pays positive results in both worker satisfaction and buy-in as well as business success.

Once your employees are invested in the company and your culture is established, its very important to always remain very conscience of maintaining this culture. To do so, remember key events such as anniversaries and birthdays. But most importantly, always remember to celebrate your successes. One example discussed in the conversation was to bang a loud gong. More often though, celebrations take place in open bars. Not surprisingly, a poll of the packed room revealed this to still be the most popular form of both celebration and team building. Go figure.

Finally, great company cultures serve as equally great recruitment tools. Life’s too short to work somewhere you hate. So, if you have fostered a welcoming, fun, successful culture, then it will pay dividends not only in financial and competitive success, but also in the sustainability of your workforce.

Final takeaway:

If you are copying lots of people on emails and meetings, then your roles aren’t defined well enough.

Here’s to making the world a more fun place to work.

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