Designing and Implementing Culture

Designing and Implementing Culture. In Blackboard Fridays Episode 6, Jacob talks about Culture. Need this implemented into your business? Talk to the international business advisor who can do exactly that – Contact Jacob, Learn More, or Subscribe for Updates.

Who is Jacob Aldridge, Business Coach?

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

Since April 2006, I’ve been a business coach helping business owners with 12-96 employees.

At this stage you have proven your business model, but you’re struggling to turn aspirations into 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.


Hi, Jacob Aldridge here in conjunction with businessDEPOT. This Friday, we’re talking Culture.

When a business starts, culture is pretty easy. You and your business partners are all similar people. You like each other – that’s why you’ve gone into business together.

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 only as a business grows that culture starts to become a challenge.

Address Culture Before it Becomes a Problem

What I encourage my clients to do is make sure that they address culture before it becomes a problem. It’s quite simple to get the framework for culture mapped out within a business. Implementing it is, 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 underpins and guides all of those other functions. If you think that culture is Friday afternoon drinks or quarterly paintball sessions with the team then you have another think coming – you need to shift culture from the periphery to the centre of your business.

How do you do that? Well, we go through this process.

How to Design Your Business Culture: Who, Why, What, and then How

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 you want to work with for a long time moving into the future. So how do you describe your current ideal team, to set a benchmark for the ideal team you want to recruit in the future?

Let’s imagine you took all your current team home for a BBQ on a weekend, and a friend of yours dropped by to say hi. If that friend looked out at that team and saw how they were behaving as a group, what are the characteristics that they would see that all the team members have in common? What is it about the people that you’ve recruited so far that you like?

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 in and they’re only going to create problems.

OK, so it starts with understanding who your ideal team members are. Then (either by yourself, or with your business partners, or even with your leadership team or the whole business) you need to have a detailed conversation about WHY you’re really in business.

A lot of people say, ‘Oh, I’m in business to make money’, and that’s obviously important. But beyond the money, finances are a means to an end. So what is your end purpose for business?

Maybe you do have some big philanthropic vision? Maybe you do have a desire to change the industry? Perhaps, like most business owners I’ve worked with in a dozen countries around the world, it really is just that you want to create a better life for your family, for your employees, and for your clients?

Whatever it is, understanding that purpose and getting that documented gives you a simple clear filter. I’d encourage you to make that very short, possibly even one line (I’ve seen some that are a couple of words) because that means that they are easy to remember and apply for the team.

Where do Core Values Fit into a Business Culture?

How to Design a Business Culture
The Culture Framework: Who, Why, What, and How

Now that you know who and why, it’s time for WHAT: What are your Core Values? 

I’ve written before in detail about how to find your Core Values, and shared the exercise identifying them for my business. There are some common mistakes.

Importantly, limit your Core Values to between three and five only. I’ve seen some businesses that have a dozen ‘core’ values, 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 will make a real difference to your team living the values and therefore embodying your culture every day.

One of the best pieces of Culture advice I ever received was that at the pinnacle of every business is not the CEO or the business owner, it’s these Core 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 your decision-making back to those values, then the team will understand and will live them, and your business will thrive.

Finally, ask HOW: How do you implement this culture?

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 Pace’.

What you want to do in this part of designing your business culture is generate a list, at a length that’s appropriate for you, that defines some of the behavioral choices that stem from your cultural decisions so far. You can manage behavioral decisions much easier than you can manage an intangible value.

To get started with your How list, I ask three questions:

  1. 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 – the non-negotiable behaviours and activities that support your Why and What.
  2. What are the things that you will not walk past, and you will not tolerate as a business? These are the things that you want to empower the team to hold themselves accountable for. Maybe it’s unnecessary billing of clients, or it’s a lack of respect for the administrative staff within your business. Get those things documented as well.
  3. Last, have a think about some fun quirky rituals that you can build within your business —something like a Friday afternoon bingo may sound silly but is actually a key element to the culture that brings the whole team together.

While its critical to manage the first two of those questions (your non-negotiable activities, and the behaviour you won’t tolerate), it’s often the rituals 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 – I actually gave a few examples in Blackboard Fridays Episode 18.

In Conclusion

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 your unique culture and then implementing it every single day to create your long term business success.

Next Steps

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