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THE QUESTION

How do I create the company culture that I want?

THE ANSWER

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You might be asking this because you do not have the culture that you want in your company. The good news is that business culture can be changed with time and effort.

Whether you are creating your culture from scratch or changing the one you have, it will take some time.

First you need to first to decide what type of culture is best for your company.

Take Cues from Your Customers

As with many areas of your business the customer will give you clues about how your organization needs to be to serve them best. A few examples:

If your customers need deep information about products and services, you need people who can work with that with patience and attention to detail. Processes may need to be simple and streamlined to keep up with the pace of business that your customers demand of you. The hours that you work might vary. Your staff will need to be flexible and committed to that.

Look in the mirror

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Customers who are impressed with you and your messaging will expect the same from your organization. When there is a negative difference between the two it could lead to trouble. Make sure that how you and the organization act, are aligned.

Small and mid-sized business owners are often the face to the customer and staff as well. As the leader of your organization, your actions reflect on everyone around you. It is interesting to me how many times I hear owners complain about behaviours with their staff that they demonstrate themselves. Your awareness of this is essential. You need to model the behaviour that you expect from everyone else.

Have Expectations

Some leaders complain about how their staff are letting them down often without ever having told them what was expected in their effort, results, leadership etc. Telling people what your expectations are helps them enormously. Ironically I have found that a common complaint among staff is that they don't have a clear idea of what is expected from them. Once you all know you can start working more effectively together.

Find ways to measure performance against expectations regularly, it will keep everyone aligned.

Use Momentum

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When you see something positive happening that indicates the change you want is happening – capitalize on it. Focus on the positive aspects of it and promote the success with the staff. Take advantage of momentum that is there. People like piling on when things are going well. That will help you get to where you want to go faster.

Be Persistent

Culture isn't formed overnight nor is it changed within moments of you announcing that you want to see things change. I think that the most important thing you can do is to be persistent with your messaging and actions to create the culture that you want.

In large organizations, it takes years to achieve the culture that leaders want to create. Ironically, those in charge often demand such change in short order which happens to be a formula for failure.

Stay focused on what you want and be persistent with the messaging and actions.

Have a question for the Globe Small Biz Coach? E-mail smallbiz@globeandmail.com. Anonymity ensured.

Brian Brennan is a senior partner at MAX Potential, an organization committed to assisting clients with the successful growth of their businesses. He actively coaches small and medium-sized business owners in all aspects of their growing companies. Brian also leads a CEO peer advisory group as a Chair at TEC Canada.

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