When it comes to your business your whole thing is about making your clients and customers into raving fans. That way they can do the work of spreading your message far and wide. A good brand always starts internally, and when we begin the conversation about you and your internal people, we’re talking company culture.
Culture vs. Subculture
Culture is a set of values, beliefs and behaviors that helps to define you. I’ve often thought of it like this: culture is a society’s (or business’s) values reflected back on itself. All businesses have a culture, whether it is intentional or not. You know the culture of many businesses by the way they act publicly (The poster child is Zappos. Zappos has a company culture built around customer service). It’s worth it to consider initiating some systems now that will help to construct the culture you’d like your business to embody whether you have any employees or not. Or better yet a subculture.
A subculture is a subset of a culture at large and differs from a culture in its smaller size and the vigor of its views. Actually sometimes those views run counter to those of the culture at large (hence, counterculture, see: punk rock). If you’re a small business it pays to think of what you’re doing as building a subculture, a small set of people (your employees) who emphatically embody your company’s values marked by a set of behaviors that sets them apart from the pack. Let’s face it, your values and behaviors are pretty different from those of the business culture at large, otherwise you’d probably be working for someone else.
Key things to consider when building your subculture
Know what you stand for. I think it was Winston Churchill who said, “If you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything.” What you stand for is the thing that makes you want to put up your dukes and fight. When you started your business what did you vow not to do like everyone else?
Know your tendencies. This is the self-awareness component and it’s not always easy. For instance, perhaps you’re a bit of a control freak (hey, you probably are), but you want your culture to exemplify autonomy and personal expression. There’s a disconnect there that starts with your tendencies. To know this is the first step to combatting it.
Define it. You can call it a culture statement or it can be part of a larger mission statement, but whatever you do, name it and describe it clearly. This will help to define your behavior and act as a reference in those times when you’re feeling rudderless.
Communicate it. Over and over. Once you’ve named the thing that defines your subculture start saying it out loud as often as possible. How many times a day do you think Tony Hsieh says the words, “customer service”? How many times a day does Gary Vaynerchuk say thank you or talk about hustling or family?
Personify it. Always. This is the most important thing. Dozens of companies get this wrong, even when they try not to. Saying it is not enough. To develop a subculture means to constantly be an example, to honor your company’s values in every action.
(CC licensed photo by mikebaird via flickr.)
Get email for the chronically independent for occasional offers, juicy extras and the Right-Sizing Basics guides.