How would you define company culture?Company culture develops when decisions that are made prove to be successful, and the thinking that went in to those decisions becomes embedded in to the way we do things. Essentially, it’s a combination of the values, mission and vision at a very high level. Why is getting company culture right important for businesses, and in particular small businesses? Small businesses are in a pretty tough recruitment environment at the moment, there is a war for talent and people drive businesses, so you need to be able to recruit the best. In order to be able to recruit the best you need to be able to demonstrate why you as a company, as an SME, are different and worth working for.
In today’s world, the millennials want more than just a salary, they want to work for a business with a mission, vision and values that they can aspire to and resonate with. If you don’t have that as an SME you’re going to struggle.
How can SMEs avoid box-ticking?Culture is not just a one-off event, culture exists in your business whether you define it or not. The way to avoid box-ticking is actually to define it, then actively embed and reinforce culture on an ongoing basis, culture needs to be nurtured just like finance, sales, marketing etc. You can’t just go and say, ok, we’ve created some values, we’ve stuck them up on the wall, we’re done. It doesn’t work like that, it requires ongoing investment and time.
What’s your experience around culture, and what makes you a voice of authority on this area?I’m the founder of Culture Gene, which is the leading company culture consultancy for startup and high growth companies. I bring 17 years of working for, with and investing in high growth and startup companies, and I was one of the early investors in Seedcamp, the original company accelerator. I’ve written two books on the subject, the first one will be published in the next couple of weeks, which is called Culture Decks Decoded, and the second one is called The Culture Gene, which will be published towards the end of the year.
What would make a strong entrant to next year’s culture leaders list, and what would impress you?There were a number of very strong entrants this year. I’m impressed by companies that are actively working on their culture, having defined it and not just their values, but their values, their mission, their vision… Companies that reward and recognise their values, companies that measure against those values, companies that are offering leadership and development programmes. It’s very proactive, specific focus on their values, and there were a number of companies that impressed me in this round. For the next round, I would hope that there would be more that are really pushing the envelope on that side of things. In association with Breathe, Real Business is running the SME Culture Leaders List 2019, the only league table of its kind catering to the UK’s thriving small and medium businesses that put company culture first.
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