Culture is a by-product of who you are, not who you want to be. Companies will attract the kind of team that its essence reflects versus the words it uses to describe itself.
The models growing in popularity today for what an ideal work culture should look like are, for most companies, unattainable. The focus is often on frequent team happy hours, free meals, foosball tables in the middle of the workplace, and meaningless writing on the walls. Following in the path of Google and Facebook is a great goal, but copycatting their perks alone won’t necessarily make for a happy and productive team. Every company has different needs, goals and environments. The culture built for each business must be based on who they are – and no one else.
To generate a company culture that is honest, effective and long lasting, it is essential that a strong and authentic strategic stack be built to lay the foundation:
A mission statement reflects what the company does – its reason for being, the “what,” “how,” and “for whom.” It needs to involve an optimistic, yet realistic, and clear intention of the business – both for the customers and employees. This will be the heart, the offshoot, of everything a company implements. It motivates the team, inspires the consumer and keeps the business owner grounded.
Mission statements should be no longer than one to two short sentences and should feel relevant, reasonable and as specific as possible. It can reflect either short- or long-term goals : What problem is the company solving? What are they improving, strengthening, embodying, or creating?
A thorough brainstorm is the first step to developing the mission and involves the influential members of the team. The business owner should lead the discussion based on five points:
1) Why the company is in business?
2) What image the business wants to convey?
3) Who is the target audience?
4) How they differ from competitors?
5) How the products or services will help in achieving the company goals?
After the mission statement is complete, it’s important to take the time to thoroughly test how the statement is perceived and if the statement is clear in intention.
Lastly, companies should never underestimate the value of revisiting the mission statement on an ongoing basis. Integrating the themes and intention behind the statement into how the business is run will assist with day-to-day decision-making and communication with the outside world.
Even further, as the business grows and changes, so can the mission. Tweaking should come naturally so as to continue its alignment with the direction of the company.
Put simply, a company’s vision is the big picture goal – what it aspires to become, accomplish and create.
A simple way to begin development of the company vision is to start with the mission statement and pull from there.
1) How does the owner want to be recognized?
2) Where do they hope to be in five years?
Once established, the team should take rigorous action to make the vision statement come true.
Companies who remain true to a strong, honest and firm assortment of core values are set up for long-term success. A company’s core values should be the ethos of a business, representing all that a company stands for. Most importantly, core values signify what company leadership should hire and fire by. These values should remain fixed, standing as the rock that never wavers as a company grows. Successful business owners refer back to them for all major decision-making, client conversations, marketing and advertising campaigns, employee relations, philanthropic efforts and more.
Once committed to the idea of abiding by these core tenants, it is important that the business owner spend some ruthlessly honest time lining out his or her own personal values. Next, bringing in additional insight from other company leaders and influencers will ensure all are on the same page and allow for alternative views regarding who the company is and who they are reaching.
Narrowing down the list (which is ideally no more than five or six points) is a challenge for any business. The deciding factor should point back to what would make or break the mission – which values will truly come together to build the foundation of who the company is?
BHAG (Big Hairy Audacious Goal)
According to the authors who conceptualized the idea, James Collins and Jerry Porras, a BHAG is a long-term goal that changes the very nature of a business’ existence. They describe it as being nearly impossible to achieve without consistently working outside of a comfort zone and displaying corporate commitment, confidence and even a bit of arrogance. According to the duo, the BHAG should be a clear and compelling 10-to-30-year goal that serves as a unifying focal point of effort, and acts as a clear catalyst for team spirit. They can be quantitative or qualitative and should feel almost impossible to achieve.
To get started, a business owner should let go of any and all constraints and deeply imagine a truly ambitious and seemingly unattainable goal. It is not uncommon for this process to take quite a long time to identify. As soon as a compelling and innovative goal has been placed, it should be tested. Is the goal:
1) Something people easily understand?
2) Does it motivate?
3) Is it measurable?
If the answer is yes to all of the above, the BHAG is ready for launch.
All tenants of the strategic stack should come about through honest, personal exploration by the business owner, and combined as one working unit with thorough implementation daily, a clear-cut culture will inevitably develop that all employees can appreciate.
Cole Harmonson is President & CEO of Far West Capital, a privately funded specialty finance company headquartered in Austin, who speaks on culture, leadership and entrepreneurship.
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