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How to Maintain a Small Business Culture When Your Organization Grows Up

How to Maintain a Small Business Culture When Your Organization Grows Up .

From our partner- Pivotal Integrated Solutions

If you run a small business with just a handful of employees, it can be easy to keep a finger on the organization's pulse. You're on a shop floor, you're taking sales calls and you can still attend every milestone and celebration. Your "open door policy" and the closeness with your employees helps the business move faster, builds stronger teams and allows you to cheerlead a culture unique to your business. But, as an organization grows, it is inevitable that you will not be able to maintain those individual relationships in the same way. This, however, does not have to mean that the culture you worked hard to build is negatively impacted. As the business owner it is up to you to continue to promote and drive forward the culture you established when you started your business in your garage. 
Know what you don't want to lose and keep an eye on it.  Don't let it be a case of you "you don't know what you got until it's gone"; if you know what is important to the culture then HR/leadership needs to keep eyes, ears and minds open so that it is maintained as an organization grows.  As new initiatives are discussed and implemented, talk about the impact on culture.  Culture should feel natural but, in fact, be very intentional and strategic.
One way you can accomplish this is to create both informal and formal recognition programs. Some of the formal processes can be as simple as celebrating length of service with the company, individual and department goals. The informal part is easier, although for some reason many people hesitate and refrain from complimenting employees on a job well done, announcing employee achievements at staff meetings, posting customer thank you notes on bulletin boards, personal notes of thanks and giving compliments so other employees can do the same. The result: creating an environment where recognizing accomplishments is the norm.   If you make this a performance standard amongst your managers, it`s even better. 
Another recommendation is to create a series of informal settings where employee perceptions can be managed and changed in small groups such as:

  • Regular small cross functional breakfast meetings "Coffee and Muffin with the President".
  • Company sponsored "lunch and learns". Departments could have an "open house" where employees from other areas of the business could drop in for pizza and to learn about what their colleagues do in a relaxed setting.  Or implement a job shadowing program.  
  • Department Managers can champion different events such as potluck lunches, BBQ's, plant open house or other pre-approved events suggested by employees.

If the organization starts getting really big (and we want them to!) — probably the most strategic thing you can do is make sure your  managers / leaders have the same commitment to maintaining the culture that you do. It's probably not that critical that you have a one-on-one relationship with everyone but the culture will ‘hold' and feel like a ‘smaller shop' if people identify with their boss / team in a close way.







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