A business is a community of human beings. Treat it as such and it will thrive. Experienced leaders and a talented sales team are vital in achieving great sales results, however, the thing that really makes the difference between a business that thrives and one that never really meets its goals is the culture of that business.
What is culture?
Culture is about the values and behaviours in a team, it’s about the business practices and what is typical in the business environment. It is the personality of that team and the expectations that people have when working in and with that team. Any successful sales team is comprised of dedicated individuals working towards the same goal with drive and clarity.
But that’s all quite obvious: no one wants to have a team that are lazy; no one tries to recruit managers who are unapproachable; no one wants to have a reputation for being difficult to work with. But it happens in every business in every part of the world.
So it’s inevitable then? It can’t be changed? We should simply learn to live with it? No, this is what sorts the good from the great. The businesses that never learn to live with something that is less than brilliant, never accept good enough and always push to take the next step, or leap, are the businesses that thrive and lead their markets. And it’s the culture instilled in these businesses that allows this to happen.
How do you identify your culture?
If you’re seeing poor sales, a weak customer reputation, if you struggle to recruit strong sales staff or are frequently having to manage internal disputes, you need to look into your business culture. It’s the case that simple businesses, with a flexible culture that can easily adapt and are closely aligned with the goals of the business, regularly out perform their competitors.
There are many methods available to get an understanding of your culture but whatever method you choose the important thing to remember is that this analysis can’t just come from the top. The most successful way of understanding your culture is simple: ask. Questionnaires, Quizzes, Surveys etc. will provide you with a clear understanding of your business culture (as long as the questions are open and the answers are anonymous).
Although it’s the managers and directors who are responsible for implementing a culture of success, it’s the ground-floor employees who embody it; without understanding their thoughts, opinions, concerns and working habits, any analysis (and changes based upon this) will be entirely theoretical. Moving commission to the heart of your sales culture will only be effective if commission is a motivating factor for your team. Equally, creating your culture around processes your employees are happy with but don’t meet the business requirements can only have a negative impact on the business.
How do you change your culture?
Now you have your answers and have identified the areas of your culture to change, what next? The culture of most SME’s has been embedded from day one and is simply an expansion of the founder’s beliefs, management style and vision. While this core vision should remain key within the culture of the business, as it grows and systems and personnel change, the culture needs to continue to evolve. However, in most situations it’s the status quo that wins out over evolution. So how do you change a culture that’s been embedded within a business for years or even decades?
There are a series of steps you can take: you might take one or you might take them all. This will always depend on the extent you need and are comfortable to change. The key areas to focus on in order to make effective changes to your company culture are:
Know and own your values: why do you do what you do? What’s important to your business?
Determine your vision and goals: create a purpose to everything your business does.
Team standards: what behaviours are accepted and expected?
Recognition and reward: what strategies will you have in place to recognise and reward successes within your sales team?
Motivation: how do you ensure your team are motivated to work to the standards you expect?
Regular personal development planning: what training and development strategies are required to keep your team at the top of their game?
Regular performance reviews: how often will your reviews take place, what will they involve and what are the implications of positive and negative reviews?
Recruitment policies: how will you ensure you only recruit strong employees who help maintain your culture?
How do you retain your culture?
Unlike many other changes you might make to your business, your culture isn’t tangible and, therefore, is extremely difficult to measure. So how do you enforce it and how do you understand if your reviews and changes are having an impact on your business?
The answer, unfortunately, is that it all depends. There’s no set process to ensure your vision for your business’ culture will stick. If you’re looking for a culture which encourages everyone to act formally and only have social conversations on their specified lunch breaks, you’ll be looking at areas such as how they answer the phone, how they’re dressing and by how much productivity levels have increased. If, on the other hand, you dream of running a business where people feel relaxed and at home when they’re at work, then look out for situations where team members are working together and interacting in a relaxed way. But again, the main point you should be noticing is increased productivity. Companies such as Google and Facebook who are famous for their relaxed attitude to working activities have recognised that agile working increases productivity. Bringing these working practices into the small business sector will allow SMEs to attract the same calibre of workers and the same successes.
Other than building your working environment around your vision for the business culture, the key method to ensure your culture exists how you want it to is, as always, speaking with your team. Regular reviews, catch-ups and chats will give you an instant idea of how they feel about their jobs, the company and the people they work with. It’s this information that will tell you if you’ve got the culture you want.
Recruiting the right people and ensuring the culture is at the heart of the recruitment and induction process will help to ensure that your culture moves forward as your business grows and evolves. Thinking about how your written communications and HR processes reflect the tone of voice of your business will enable you to attract candidates who reflect your culture when they join.
What does your new culture give you?
So what’s the point? This all sounds like a lot of effort just to make your employees feel good at work. Does it really matter how they feel, or should they be working as hard as they can because you’re paying them? Well, yes they should. However, working as hard as they can because they’ve been told to, and working as hard as they can because they want to, are two completely different things.
Having a team of people who are committed to the goals of the business means you have a team of people who will work pro-actively, who will go out of their way to deliver, who will treat the businesses problems as if they are their own and will do whatever it takes to deliver.
As well as working harder, employees driven to help the business thrive will have fewer sick days, will be less likely to jump ship and will help their team to feel the same way. All of this impacts on the way people represent your business to the outside world, therefore impacting on your business’ reputation and ultimately your success. So if you want a successful business you need to build a culture that creates success.