The goal for every founder is to scale their businesses. Like a farmer, you want the seed you sowed (your business idea) to turn into an orchard (a fully fledged business) and eventually, a ranch (world domination). The question is, how do you scale without deviating from your core values, culture and identity? In this article, we will give you tips on how to successfully scale your business without losing its core identity.
But first, let’s look at what comprises a company’s identity.
What is company culture, values and identity?
Company culture is defined as a workplace’s attitudes, behaviors, beliefs, values, standards and purposes. These are the unwritten and written rules that employees abide by while in a work environment. Jason Kilar, the former CEO of Hulu, defined company culture at a Y-Combinator event as how people in the company, including you, act or behave when no one is looking. According to Kilar, how a founder or CEO acts when no one is looking is modeled by their employees over time and this behavior spreads across the company forming an unwritten rule book on how every cog in the company should turn.
Most people interchange company culture with company values. While these two concepts are certainly related- cousins if you will, they are different. Company values are the philosophies and principles that drive one’s business and are essentially eternal. Culture, on the other hand, is how a business implements these values. See how closely they are related?
Company culture and values contribute significantly in molding a brand’s identity. For instance, if one of a given company’s values “people-first”, it means that they have a culture that embraces putting people first. This means that this particular company will be known as a brand that values clients, employees, society - a company with a humane touch when it comes to its products and services.
The question is, how do you retain that core principle that drives your company once you start expanding to other markets, adding new employees, bringing new partners onboard and so on?
1) Clearly define and communicate your company culture and values
Walt Disney is currently worth $169.68 billion. Over the years this company has managed to produce gripping visual content for the global market. A large part of how this company continues to dominate in its industry is because even when they scaled, they managed to retain their core identity. They managed to do this by;
- Constantly talking about their culture and their values.
- Continuously ensuring that their culture and values are being adhered to by everyone in the compa
The company’s secret weapon, however, revolved around Walt Disney himself. Disney lived and breathed his company’s culture, whether people were looking or not. As a result, his employees began to do the same, creating a culture that would perpetuate itself in this organization for years to come.
As a founder, it is important to be intentional and clear about what you want your company’s culture to be and to constantly communicate this to your employees, partners and even clients. This way, when you scale, everyone involved in bringing your vision to life, will be aware of how you want this vision to be executed.
Your business will therefore grow without losing its core life force.
2) Align the hiring and onboarding processes with company culture and values
According to a study conducted by Talent LMS this year, organizations with standard onboarding programs have a likelihood of increasing new hire productivity by 70 percent. As a founder, you should ensure that your company has a standard onboarding program that entails your company culture and values. This way, a new employee will have an easier time settling into their role and they will have a clear idea of what the company’s culture, values and overall identity is, factors that will contribute significantly to their productivity.
Also, when hiring, your HR department should vet potential candidates based on their values, skills, and industry knowhow. Having a candidate whose values match the organization’s will increase your company’s productivity rate, as this new hire will understand and appreciate your company's culture. They will also have a deep passion for bringing your vision to life.
For instance, if a company values the growth mindset and therefore invests in the learning and development department and a candidate comes along who has spent time and energy learning new skills on their own, then this person is the perfect fit for this company as they will always scour for new trends in the industry, keeping the company abreast with vital market trends.
Scaling your business will lead to you hiring new people every day, having a standard program that includes your company values and culture will help you maintain your brand identity as you strive to achieve global domination.
3) Foster open communication and collaboration
People are the fuel of every company, and to ensure that every department is running smoothly, your company has to create an environment where communication and teamwork is appreciated.
Company culture that champions dictatorship i.e., where employees cannot voice their concerns or contributions, is bound to have stunted growth. Employees will be doing their bare minimum in order to get their salaries at the end of the month. Fostering a culture where employees can communicate their ideas and concerns as well as collaborate with one another on projects will lead to company growth. Employees will go beyond their set KPIs and OKRs, determined to achieve the company’s overall goal as well.
As you scale your business, strive to create an environment where employees are comfortable enough to air their views, share their ideas and collaborate with fellow colleagues and management to attain a certain goal.
4) Empower employees to make decisions aligned with company culture and values
Picture this scenario, your employee who is in charge of giving tenders has come across a service provider who is willing to give them a certain amount of money in order to acquire the tender. Do you think the employee will accept the bribe or forfeit it?
Most of the decisions your employees will make will happen when you are not around. If your company cultures and values are well defined then the actions taken by employees will revolve around the culture of your company. If integrity forms your company’s core identity and you and every other person in the organization abides by this culture, then in the earlier scenario, the employee will turn down the bribe and look for a suitable supplier for the project.
Once again, this goes back to being intentional about what you want your company culture to be, communicating this culture in a clear manner and abiding by this culture in everything you do as the founder and CEO of your company.
5) Regularly asses and reinforce company culture and values
We have established that it is vital to have employees in the company adhere to the company’s culture and values. The question is, how do you ensure this is happening practically?
Walt Disney came up with a mechanism that ensured people were constantly taught and reminded of his company’s culture by establishing an institution known as “Disney school”. There, every Disney employee was taught about the company’s history, vision, mission, values, culture and overall identity.
Although it might be difficult to start a school primarily for this purpose in your case, you can come up with a system that effectively reinforces your company’s culture and values. This can involve;
- Surveys and feedback from employees: Conduct regular employee surveys to gather feedback on their perceptions of the company culture and values. Ask specific questions about alignment, communication, and opportunities for improvement. Use the insights gained to identify areas of strength and areas that need attention.
- Leadership Alignment: Ensure that leaders at all levels of the organization are aligned with the company's culture and values i.e., line managers, senior management etc. Provide them with training and resources to effectively communicate and reinforce these principles in their daily interactions with employees.
- Reward those who effectively uphold your company’s culture: Implement recognition programs that acknowledge and reward employees who demonstrate the company's values in their work.
- Communication Channels: Establish regular communication channels, such as company-wide meetings to consistently communicate and reinforce the company's culture and values. Share success stories, testimonials, and examples of employees living the values. This can be a part of your internal newsletters.
- Training and Development: Integrate the company's culture and values into employee training and development programs. Offer seminars that focus on fostering a positive work culture and emphasize on the vitality of upholding your company’s core values..
- Continuous Improvement: Regularly review and evaluate the company's culture and values to ensure they remain relevant and aligned as your company evolves. The most effective way to achieve this is by getting feedback from your employees and clients. This will help you understand whether you still possess your core identity, values and culture.
As you scale, you will need working mechanisms that will help you thrive in your industry while ensuring your core identity is intact.
6) Keep the customer at the centre
At the end of the day, your clients are the reason you remain relevant in your industry. This is why every company in the world is rushing to become AI-oriented; everyone wants to be able to provide the best products and services to their customers.
As you scale, ensure that your company does not lose its human touch. You can ensure this by developing a “people-first” culture in your company. This will then be incorporated in every function within your company i.e., onboarding and hiring, communication, product development, service provision etc. You will have branches all over the world putting clients first without you being around.
You can effectively achieve this by;
- Establishing a customer-centric vision: Clearly communicate the importance of prioritizing customer needs and expectations at all levels, from management to employees.
- Getting customer feedback: Actively seek customer feedback through surveys, feedback forms, social media channels etc. Regularly analyze and act upon this feedback to improve products, services, and overall customer experience.
- Empower your employees: Provide training and resources to empower your employees to make decisions that prioritize the customer. Encourage them to actively listen to customers, resolve issues promptly, and provide personalized solutions.
- Map out the customer journey: Map out the customer journey to gain a comprehensive understanding of their interactions with the company. Identify pain points, areas for improvement, and opportunities to deliver exceptional experiences at each touchpoint. Continuously refine and optimize the customer journey as the company scales.
Most companies that fail to take flight during their scaling period face the hurdle of keeping the customer at the center as they scale. The only way this can happen is if your employees understand and appreciate your company’s culture when it comes to clients.
There you have it, six tips that will help you retain your core identity as you scale.
As you well know, scaling requires funds. If you are a founder who is invested in elevating the wellbeing of humanity and you are looking for the resources to do so, look no further! From Here Ventures is the answer to your prayers.
How From Here Ventures can help you successfully scale while retaining your core identity
From Here Ventures is focused on catalyzing Africa's transformation by supporting incredible entrepreneurs who are on a mission to build remarkable African companies. But what makes these selected companies truly special is that they put human wellbeing right at the core of what they do. The goal of From Here Ventures is to make a positive impact and create a better future for Africa.
If From Here Ventures takes you under their wing, they will not only help you source finances for your company, but they will also provide advisors and domain experts who will help you grow your business and scale it successfully. This essentially means that you will have godfathers showing you industry ropes which includes how to ensure you retain your core culture, values and identity as you scale.
Eager to bring a positive impact to Africa and the world? Submit a pitch to From Here Ventures today!
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