By John T. Hewitt, Founder & CEO, Liberty Tax Service
Culture is defined by Webster’s as “a way of thinking, behaving, or working that exists in a place or organization.” When you think of company culture, the Silicon Valley ‘rock star’ culture might come to mind; however, there’s more than one way to have an effective company culture.
Ask yourself, what do you want your company to be known for? Great customer service? Excellent products? Success? You can reach all these goals simply by creating a corporate culture that inspires people to greatness. That includes listening to employees, embracing criticism and ensuring that you communicate your vision for the company and that everyone buys in to the vision and wants to contribute to making it a reality.
Here are four steps to build an effective, and lasting, company culture.
Establish Your Culture
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, people 25-54 spend, on average, 9 hours of their day at work and a little over an hour caring for others, including children. Given the hours people spend with their co-workers, it makes sense to provide a work environment where they can enjoy, a place where people help each other and where people can be creative and productive.
As the CEO, you need to create a culture where people feel challenged and free to be innovative. You may know the big picture better than anyone, but your franchisees and employees know the tools they need to exceed customer expectations. Trust your employees to make the right decisions. Give them the freedom to make suggestions and give advice to their managers without concern for retribution. Empower them. When you do this, you will create a culture where ideas thrive and employees gladly work to improve the company and to meet goals.
Instill Your Culture
The secret to having a great culture is first hiring people with great attitudes. Attitude is everything. You can teach people how to run their business and how to market it. You can provide training, support and capital. What you can’t teach is attitude; the positive, team-focused, customer service attitude that separates winners from losers. You don’t have to recruit always happy, yes-people, but you need to seek out people who want to be a part of your bigger vision. These employees will be your ambassadors because they love the company almost as much as you do. Once you have found them, ensure that your corporate culture is open and responsive to their ideas and input and invested in helping them succeed. Make them part of the vision.
Protect Your Culture
The toughest step is moving someone out when you find that they don’t fit. Just as people can make a great culture, principle violators can also create a bad culture. When you find employees who don’t share your values or perform well, you need to get rid of them. My strategy is to tell them they need to go find another place to be extraordinary. It’s harder to let go of people who deliver the numbers but don’t share your values. This a very tough call. Personally, I don’t pull the trigger fast enough. Plus, I do remember one lesson from school — President Lincoln took a chance on Ulysses S. Grant because of his excellent performance leading the Union to victory at Vicksburg in 1863. That’s despite his reputation as an alcoholic a decade earlier, when he was asked to resign from the Army. The rest, as they say, is history.
Spread Your Culture
In our company, we have a culture of giving. We have seen how that commitment has helped us attract employees and franchisees who are equally committed to supporting great causes and improving people’s lives. These partners and employees come to the table with generosity in their hearts. I can’t claim any credit for their compassionate spirits; this is simply a family that already has giving at its core. The Fortunate Must Give Back isn’t a principle I have to teach; it is organically part of our culture. Create a corporate culture that inspires people, and you will find the same.
In your business, you are the visionary of your company, and you must lead by example. Look into the future and don’t be afraid to take a risk and act on your instincts. Create and instill a corporate culture that is true to you. Serve your customers and solve their problems even before they officially become problems. Do these things and success will be just around the corner for your business.