In theory, scaling your business is a good thing. You increase revenues, grow your client base, and probably expand your staff. But with rapid growth, there are often growing pains within your company. Some areas of your business might suffer, such as your company culture.
When your business is small, you may have found it easy to adopt a casual company culture where employees can be relied upon to get their work done on their own timeframe rather than the standard 9 to 5, for example. But what happens when you have more staff to manage? That carefree culture may be more challenging to maintain, and it may become difficult to hold a larger staff accountable for the time they spend working.
Your culture defines who you are as a brand. Here’s how you can find that balance between scaling your business and keeping your company culture.
- Keep the Culture Front and Center
When your business starts to expand rapidly, it can be hard to keep thinking about that culture you worked so hard to create and maintain, but it’s essential that you do. With each new hire, ask yourself how well that potential candidate would fit in with the culture you’ve developed. If, for example, you’ve established a work-hard-play-hard mentality in the office, does this applicant seem like she would be willing to work 60 hours weeks sometimes, and be happy with the after-hours party you throw when your team meets its numbers?
In training new hires, make sure that company culture is outlined and explained. A new employee might see the foosball table in the breakroom and assume that anyone can stop working whenever they feel like it to play, when in reality you use it as a place to brainstorm on new projects. If you initiate new hires around your company culture, you will be able to spread it to the next generation of staff for your company.
- Stay in Touch
As the head of your company, you always have your fingers in a lot of pots. That will increase as your business grows. It’s easy to get out of touch with your staff and what’s happening, but do everything you can to avoid that.
When you see an employee in the hall, check in and see how they’re doing. Hold regular meetings — even if they’re just five minutes long — where you can get a status check on projects as well as just shoot the breeze. Be available and communicative. Your staff needs to know that nothing’s changed now that you’re bigger and better; you’re still the open and accessible boss you always have been.
- Keep Company Traditions
If you’ve had a Beer Friday celebration every year since you first launched your business, why stop that now? Your traditions may need to adapt as you scale, but it’s important that you stay true to them: you might not be able to afford to buy beer for your newly-expanded staff of 100, but you could meet at the local watering hole each Friday evening and let them buy their own drinks.
Traditions give employees something to hold onto. These are the things that your staff brags about to their friends. They’re what keep your employees working hard for you. Often when a small business gets larger, it loses some of that personal touch. Don’t let that happen or you risk that culture disappearing altogether.
- Get Feedback
If you’re no longer in the office as much as you used to be, you may not have a handle on how the company culture has changed. That’s why it’s important to hear from your employees (especially managers) how things are changing, and not for the better. Make it clear that you want to keep everyone as happy as possible and maintain that culture that they love, so be open to their feedback and suggestions. Part of what makes your small business amazing is that it has an identity that a giant corporation doesn’t have. Your staff is a part of that identity, so make sure you’re appreciating it.
To that end, also acknowledge a team member who has done an outstanding job. With you less available, your employees may feel invisible to you, and may not push themselves as hard as they used to. That’s why showing them that you’re paying attention to their efforts is key as your business evolves.
Growing your business is an excellent accomplishment, but it’s important to stay close to your small business roots. Remember why you started your business and what you wanted it to stand for. Keep in mind the atmosphere you worked hard to create so that your employees would be happy, and strive to continue to foster that company culture.