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Useful company culture examples for small businesses

9 min read

12 June 2019

What can we learn from companies that have succeeded in creating their own coherent cultures? Check out these four distinct company culture examples.

Many companies now recognise the benefits of creating a positive company culture. According to research from specialist HR software company Breathe, an impressive 60% of SME leaders expect a positive workplace culture to improve levels of customer service and satisfaction. But however good a company’s intentions, it can be difficult to achieve that overall aim and establish a workplace culture that is attractive.

To provide some inspiration, Real Business explores four different company culture examples from businesses large and small. While none are similar, they have all shaped a cohesive culture that works for them and their employees – and are full of useful takeaways for small businesses.

Why is company culture important?

Workplace culture influences everything a business does and stands for. It affects the way employees treat each other and the extent to which they adopt company values and behaviours.

What’s more, poor company culture can have profound effects. In fact, further research from Breathe has found that a third of British workers (34%) quit their job because of poor company culture. What, then, can businesses do to remedy this?

(Learn more about what company culture is and why it’s important here.)

Company culture examples for small businesses

Statements and statistics can be helpful. But for businesses looking for practical takeaways, real-life examples are often more useful. This is especially true when exploring the topic of workplace culture, where lofty statements and percentages abound.

So what lessons can we learn from companies that have succeeded in creating their own distinct, coherent cultures? Here’s a mix of four different company culture examples.

1. The New Division: Practice what you preach

HQ: Stockholm

Number of employees: 13

Sustainability strategy and design agency The New Division combines strategic and creative thinking to help achieve a sustainable future. Key to this is making crucial issues such as equality, migration and the climate crisis easier to understand and act on. The group has, for example, worked on the communication system for the UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals for 2030.

Sustainability is also an integral part of The New Division’s internal company culture. The group is particularly mindful of its carbon footprint, for example. Its travelling policy involves using public transport cards, cycling to work, taking the train, avoiding taxis and only taking flights when strictly necessary.

The company regularly revises its suppliers to ensure each supplier is as ethical as possible. What’s more, any materials produced for campaigns are eco-friendly – and all food in the office is organic.

2. Lily’s Kitchen: Maintain purpose with structure

HQ: London

Number of employees: 50+

Pet food brand Lily’s Kitchen makes natural healthy food for cats and dogs. Purpose has played a large part in the company’s culture from the outset. Although the business has grown from one to over 50 employees in ten years, this remains true today.

Check out these useful company culture examples for small businesses

Lily’s Kitchen employees have donated five tonnes of treats since 2017.

In part this is thanks to how the company grew. With scale came structure – and a collective understanding of what the company stands for. Lily’s Kitchen may be a workplace full of passion, but its culture is based on several distinct elements.

Belief. Central to the culture at Lily’s is the belief that pets should eat ‘proper food’. Employees have donated five tonnes of treats since 2017 and the company is currently the UK’s number one Ethical Pet Food Company.

Environment. To make the office an enjoyable place to work, Lily’s has implemented various initiatives, including a breakfast club, company choir, ‘bring your dog to work’ policy and a management academy called ELEVATE.

Balance. To allow people to be their most productive, the company introduced a flexi-time policy, working from home and flexible support for those returning to work.

Voice. Lily’s Kitchen conducts regular internal surveys and has made several changes based on feedback, such as enhanced maternity pay.

3. Love Energy Savings: Provide work-life balance

HQ: Bolton

Number of employees: 150+

Deemed an Awesome Place to Work 2018, Lancashire-based Love Energy Savings runs an energy price comparison site. Like any business, the company wants its employees to be driven. It is, for example, determined for them to be “the best price comparison experts out there”.

Love Energy Savings follows a number of initiatives to motivate staff, including ‘Nominate a Mate’ and the ‘Wall of Fame’, where individuals and teams can nominate each other for excellent work. However, the company also recognises that work doesn’t exist in a vacuum.

Check out these fascinating company culture examples

Love Energy Savings recognises that work doesn’t exist in a vacuum.

The SME claims to put employees first and certainly seems to provide a balanced working environment. On top of 9-5 working hours and birthdays off work, Love Energy Savings has invested in a breakout facility called ‘The Love Shack’, which offers food, games, social events and parties. Employees also have access to a free on-site gym to burn off steam, and even free personal training sessions.

4. Anglian Water: Focus on employee wellbeing

HQ: Huntingdon

Number of employees: 5,000

Anglian Water manages, supplies and recycles water for more than six million domestic customers in the East of England and Hartlepool. It recently came first in Glassdoor’s 2019 Best Places to Work award.

According to its employees, Anglian Water has a particularly friendly working environment. This is partly because the company cares deeply about the types of people it employs. CEO Peter Simpson, for example, has said:

“We look for people whose behaviours align to our culture and who share the same values as we do as an organisation.”

The company also prioritises employee wellbeing and a healthy, happy workplace culture. Anglian employees highlight flexible working and great work-life balance as significant pros. They also enjoy access to cycle desks, mindfulness breakfasts, biodiversity walks and can even go on walking meetings.

Check out these great company culture examples

Cycle desks are a way to keep fit at work.

It is an approach that clearly resonates with employees. As an Anglian Water Asset Delivery Manager said:

“The workforce is clearly proud, passionate and really cares about the work they do, which results in a really positive culture and working environment.”

Your own company culture examples

Workplace culture can be a tricky thing to nail. But once you’ve got it, you’ll know you’re there. And it’s good to shout about these things.

That’s why Real Business, in association with Breathe, 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.

If your business has an amazing atmosphere, stellar perks and more, tell us all about it for a chance to feature on Real Business as an SME Culture Leader. Nominate your business today.