Five ways small businesses can build great culture

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Many business owners launch their own venture because they have a passion and desire to work in an environment that has the right values and culture for them. In turn, they’re happier to go to work everyday. Pawl Cubbin, the founder of Zoo Group, knows this all too well. But how can you build and maintain a good work culture especially as you grow?

“After many years starting and running a number of businesses across several industries, I’ve learnt that you can’t undervalue the impact of culture on the success of the business,” said Cubbin.

“A good culture can help you reach new heights and naturally draw great people to your business. Conversely, bad culture can feel like everything is a struggle, the work suffers, clients become unhappy and you always seem to be hiring new staff.”

After buying back a business from a large multinational and rebuilding it from the ground up, he knew that culture would be the competitive advantage his business needed to play in an industry that is dominated by multinationals.

“I honestly believe that the success of any business relates directly to how well aligned each individual staff member and client is with the business’ purpose, values and culture,” said Cubbin.  

“Our culture is centred on the principal of continually challenging ourselves to find the new better. It is reflected in how we communicate with each other, the way we work, the spaces in which we work, how we talk to clients and how we’re growing the business.”

Here are the five biggest things he has learnt when it comes to building a sustainable and realistic culture for your team.

#1. Lead by example

It seems straightforward but it’s where most business owners fall down. As the head of the business you need to live and breathe your values, they must be part of you.

You must always be the reminder of your values to your team. Promote your purpose, values, and point of difference constantly – slip it into conversations whenever you can.  Live them.  It’s pretty hard some days, but try to always demonstrate your values in action and lead by example.

#2. Involve your team in coming up with new ideas

Involving your people in coming up with new ideas for the business is all about engagement. Employees want to feel like they are part of a team and working towards a common goal – this brings meaning to why they show up every day.

Fostering an entrepreneurial spirit in your business will mean your team will bring ideas to you rather than you doing it on your own. They become energetic and excited about challenging themselves and others around them. They will work harder but be happier about it – days are long when you don’t like what you do, but they’re short when you love what you do.

#3. Celebrate success and acknowledge input

One of our five values at ZOO Group is pride. We encourage our teams to celebrate what they’ve learned, contributed or achieved. It’s important to acknowledge people’s efforts. Most workplace engagement surveys will show that employees want to know they’ve done a good job and they seek gratitude.

#4. Make it easy for them to do great work

Even in small businesses, employees are weighed down by process and administration. But what if you could strip away most of this administration so your team can focus more on the work that matters?

I know my creative teams do their best work when they are in the ‘zone’ so I do everything I can to help them do just that. We focus more on project management rather than time management and in doing this we’ve created a working environment which gives staff the flexibility to work when and where they’re in their ‘happy place’.

#5. Give them opportunity for growth

If you want your business to move forward, you also need to help your team move forward. How I’ve been able to attract some pretty serious talent to my businesses, is offering them the opportunity to challenge themselves. Whether its commercially or creatively, I make sure I’m offering them an opportunity to push themselves and grow.

A good culture doesn’t just develop by itself – it needs to be intentional and planned. But when you get it right, things fall into place and everyone is on board and engaged in making sure the business is a success.

Pawl Cubbin is the Founder of ZOO Group

Image (sourced): iStock, Jacob A. Lund