- Your culture quietly determines the way you, as your business, deal with (and prioritize) vendors, suppliers, customers, and even competitors
- Though it may seem counterintuitive, the necessity of "cultural strategy" actually that goes double for one-person firms, since the culture is entirely up to you
According to Leigh Branham (via HBR's Dealing With the Real Reasons People Quit) while most people tell human resources they are leaving for more money or a better opportunity, 88% actually change jobs because of culture-and-people issues that they feel uncomfortable sharing with future job references. So, chances are, if you have already left, or are considering leaving your current job to start your own firm, there are a range of negative factors that you are unhappy with, making striking out on your own that much less scary.
But how can you be sure that, even in your one-person firm, those peoplecentric issues won't continue to make, or break, your success?
Even though it's just you, your cultural incubator is starting, and it boils down to what your business personality is. Inherent in your ability to control your own business identity comes the responsibility to craft it with your every interaction, big or small.
After all, your culture quietly determines the way you, as your business, deal with (and prioritize!) vendors, suppliers, customers, and even competitors. In short, it may be your biggest determinant of future success.
In fact, though it may seem counterintuitive, the necessity of "cultural strategy" actually that goes double for one-person firms. To find the face of your company, you need only look in the mirror. If you have a bad day and treat someone less than stellar, there is no one else there to pick up your karmic slack.
When it comes time to hire your first employee, how you will you know if they are a good fit? If you know, for example, one of your core cultural beliefs is excellence, you will soon realize that you need to have a high bar for applicants, and pay commiserate with that sort of selection. Firms that value customer service first and foremost will want to spend a great amount of effort considering the ways they gather customer feedback and respond to it, and so on.
These are key decisions that top CEOs like Brett Hurt of Bazaarvoice know all too well. I was at a recent talk of his in my entrepreneurship class this fall where he observed that the three things that matter most to a company's culture are how you hire someone, how you promote your people, and how you let people go. If you have an employee who treats everyone like dirt while turning in good numbers and you promote that person, what does that say about your firm's culture? Actions always speak louder than words. Every decision is a tradeoff; part of culture is determining what you are willing to trade in short-term convenience for the long-term health of your company.
I have been thinking about my own core values. It's no small task, but one that I hope will pay lifelong dividends. I think I've whittled my list down to three main areas: friendliness, quality and sweetness. It sounds silly, but this has already affected my communications (including hand-written notes in each of my online orders, addressing purchasers by first name and using a warm, conversational tone) and my packaging choices. Soon I hope to apply these thoughts to my Website and other key areas.
How do you craft your culture? I'd love to hear suggestions.