Designing and Implementing Culture

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Who is Jacob Aldridge, Business Coach?

“The smart and quirky advisor who gets sh!t done in business.” Back independent since 2019.

Since April 2006, I’ve been an international business advisor providing bespoke solutions for privately-owned businesses with 12-96 employees.

At this stage you have proven your business model, but you’re struggling to turn aspirations into day-to-day reality. You are still responsible for all 28 areas of your business, but you don’t have the time or budget to hire 28 different experts.

You need 1 person you can trust who can show you how everything in your business is connected, and which areas to prioritise first.

That’s me.

Learn more here. Or Let’s chat.

Transcript

Hi, Jacob Aldridge from business depo here. We’re talking culture. When a business starts, cultures actually pretty easy. You and your business partners are all fairly similar people. You like each other that’s why you’ve gone into business. A lot of your first clients probably are people you like as well. You hire staff that you get along with—they like you, they’re similar to you, and that also means that they like your clients and your clients like them. It’s when a business grows that culture starts to become a challenge.

What I encourage my clients to do is make sure that they address culture before it becomes a problem. It’s actually quite simple to get the framework for culture mapped out within a business. Implementing it like implementing any strategy, can take a little bit longer. The first thing you need to realize about culture is that it’s not something that sits separate to all of the other functions in your business. It actually under pins and guides all of those other functions. So, if you think that culture is Friday afternoon drinks or quarterly paintball sessions with the team, then you’ve got to understand that we need to shift culture from the periphery to the center of your business.

How do you do that? Well, we go through this process. The first question we want to ask is who. Who are your ideal team members? Hopefully, if you have a look at your team today, they’re all people do you want to work with for a long time moving into the future. If you took them all around to your place for a BBQ on a weekend, and a friend of yours dropped by to say hi and have a look out at that team, what are the characteristics that they would see that all of the team members have in common? What is it about the people that you’ve recruited so far that you like? Because to create a culture that’s internal, which is the experience that you and your team have every day when they come to work, you want to make sure that those characteristics are defined in terms of your ideal team members.

When recruiting, this is really the first filter you want to apply to any potential recruits. Yes, you want to look at skills that they’ve got, perhaps relationships that they may bring, but if they don’t fit your idea of who is going to build your business, then they’re not going to fit; they’re only going to create problems. So, it starts with understanding who your ideal team members are, and then either be yourself and your business partners, leadership team or even the whole business, sitting down and having a detailed conversation about why you’re really in business. A lot of people say, ‘Oh, I’m in business to make money you know’, and that’s obviously important but beyond the money, finances are a means to an end. Now maybe you do have some big philanthropic vision, maybe you do have a desire to change the industry. Perhaps, like most Australian business owners, it really is just that you want to create a better life for your family and for your employees and clients.

Whatever it is, understanding that purpose getting that documented, gives you a simple clear filter. I’d encourage you to make that very, very short, possibly even one line I’ve seen some that are a couple of words, and that means that they are easy to remember and apply for the team. What is it about your core values?  Limit them to between three and five core values. I’ve seen some businesses that have got a dozen of them, and yet if you ask anyone in the business including the CEO to name them, they can’t–It’s just too many for people to remember. If your team can’t remember the values, they’re not applying them day-to-day to their decision-making. Having a short number of clear values that are meaningful and defined, or make a real difference to your team living the values and therefore the culture day to day.

One of the best pieces of advice I ever got around culture was that it the pinnacle of every business is not the CEO or the business owner, it’s these values. while everybody else may report up to the business owner; the business owner reports to the values. If they’re clear and if you can link all of your decision-making back to those values, then the team will understand and will live them, and your business will thrive.

Lastly, is how—how do you implement this culture? Because it’s very difficult to sit down with someone and say, ‘Oh, that’s not our purpose’ or ‘that decision you made last week doesn’t really live up to our value of integrity or honesty’. What you want to do is get out a list—the length that’s appropriate for you, some of the behavioral choices that stem from your cultural decision because you can manage behavioral decisions much easier than you can manage some of the values.

To get started with that, I’d ask you three questions: First, what are the fundamental things that you do as a business for your clients and for your staff? This can be things like a Christmas party, or answering a phone within three rings. Second, what are the things that you will not walk past, you will not tolerate as a business? The things that you want to empower the team to hold themselves accountable for. Maybe it’s unnecessary building for clients, or it’s a lack of respect for the administrative staff within your business. Get those things documented. Last, have a think about some fun quirky rituals that you can build within your business. Here in business depot, we’ve made a concerted effort to make sure that we have some of those rituals—something like a Friday afternoon bingo may sound silly, but is actually a key element to the culture that brings the whole team together.

That’s one of those things that a team member will miss when they go somewhere else; so, when they think about leaving the business when one of their friends says ‘hey do you like working where you work?’, those are the things that will come to mind. Those rituals make your business special. Your culture makes your business special. So, if your business is special and deep down you know it is, make sure you spend the time designing the culture and implementing it to create that long term success.

Next Steps

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