Businesses never stay the same size forever. An entrepreneur may yearn for the early days when their business was just a handful of people. But over time, businesses find great success and become entities that may span several offices and regions.
The positive part of this expansion is that the business is doing well and bringing in more income. The downside is that, with so many new people, the company culture may start to suffer. In order for a business to retain its identity, keeping the company culture intact is crucial.
For guidance, eight experts from Young Entrepreneur Council weigh in on how to maintain a company culture despite a massive expansion of business.
Young Entrepreneur Council members share what to do if you see growth impacting your company culture.
Photos courtesy of the individual members.
1. Build Around A Central Theme
Company culture is not a passive list of attributes you aspire to, but an active practice among your employees. Align your company culture around a central theme that is easy to implement and recognize. When culture is deeply integrated as a “standard practice,” new hires will adapt quickly and culture will not be diluted as your company grows. For example, at Zeni, the central theme of our culture is trust. Trust means you keep your word, integrity and loyalty to each other and your company. A trustworthy work environment encourages our team to persevere and work hard, and have an openness to learning. Trust creates a sense of comfort that encourages everyone to be themselves, to agree or disagree with confidence and build a work environment that makes everyone feel safe and protected. – Swapnil Shinde, Zeni Inc.
2. Have A Proper System
Every company goes through cycles of changes where priorities shift quickly. Rapid changes can sneak up on you and make you feel lost. But change is good. It means that you’re growing and thriving, and it means you are scaling your business. The key to the successful implementation of change is a proper system. People might come and go, but the prevalent system shouldn’t be overridden. The system can be values, ethics, functions, coordination and common goals. It’s very important to define the system when the company is small and it’s relatively easy to know everyone in the team. But when the company grows it gets hard, as many interests are at stake. Moreover, creating a system after the company grows takes time as it’s hard to bring sudden change. – Vikas Agrawal, Infobrandz
3. Conduct Social Interviews And Hire In Groups
As a fast-growing company, we’ve added new team members at irregular intervals and with different degrees of success. Here are a few things we’ve learned. First, hire in groups if possible. Being a new employee can be lonely, so hiring in groups or “classes” helps new employees feel less isolated. Then, interview socially. We’ve found adding a social component to the interview process helps us understand more about a candidate’s real personality. A meal or coffee with a small group of team members is pretty effective for understanding social fit. Lastly, be willing to walk away. There is a tendency for young founders to hire the right skill sets as fast as possible. We’ve found this leads to incomplete assessments and misfits. Keeping a sharp eye on cultural fit will help mitigate the risk of a mishire. – Kara Brown, LeadCoverage
4. Schedule Time To Give Back And Interact
These two commitments are deeply rooted in the culture at our agency. Both volunteer work and the weekly Cafecito, monthly escape rooms and other outdoor team activities are in our calendar. They are nonnegotiable and they are just as important as client meetings. We all thrive on this balance and it really helps us come up with creative solutions off the clock that can be applied when we are back on. It suspends the hierarchies, alleviates tensions that might build during the week and it also connects us to the community around us. Alphametic would not be where it is without the corporate culture. I am completely devoted to the culture and always carve out time to foster it. – Matthew Capala, Alphametic
5. Stay Open To Feedback And Criticism
We needed to change fast when we grew our customer base from one to 100 and more. One of the things that we maintained in our company culture was to keep an open mind and be open to constructive feedback. We had to keep our communication lines open to everyone and keep improving our services so that we always knew where we needed to change. What keeps us intact is the fact that we are in a state of constant improvement. – Solomon Thimothy, OneIMS
6. Write A Company Culture Deck
When growing fast, it is important to invest time to write a company culture deck. Without it, you are like a vessel without a destination. Share your history, values and passion with those you bring on board. Share where you want to go and what you want to achieve. Make them fall in love by sharing with them where you come from and where you are going. Explain how the company works and what sets it apart as well as what the company expects from them. Also, the company deck will guide those in charge of hiring new employees in their search for the right candidates. It will help them identify the characteristics of those individuals who will most likely be great fits for the company culture. – Riccardo Conte, Virtus Flow
7. Hire For Similar Values
Hire people with the same values and mission. It is easier said than done, but it is the key to keeping the company culture intact. Look for the same heart, but different strengths and weaknesses that would complement others. Everyone’s minds might be as smart or as excellent as each other’s, but values and perspectives in life differ—that’s one thing everyone on your team must consistently have. – Daisy Jing, Banish
8. Create Ambassadors Within
You need to create ambassadors within your organization to help you perpetuate the right culture at your workplace. Encourage certain employees who are active, have great social skills and have good relationships with others at work. Make them your allies in showing newcomers how things work. You’ll never be able to ensure that a culture stays intact alone, but you can with help from others. – Blair Williams, MemberPress