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Top tips on maintaining company culture during times of growth

Written by Amy McCulloch on Wednesday, 24 July 2019. Posted in People

Exiting the start-up phase can be an exciting but challenging time for growing businesses.

Top tips on maintaining company culture during times of growth
Top tips on maintaining company culture during times of growth

Amy McCulloch, founder and MD of creative/media agency, eight&four

Exiting the start-up phase can be an exciting but challenging time for growing businesses.

Employees may feel nervous at the prospect of new clients, increased pressure and more colleagues. And those in leadership positions may find themselves divided between a range of new demands.

During a period of intense business growth, company culture can slip down the list of priorities. But in reality, company culture plays a vital role in ensuring that growth runs smoothly. It’s the backbone of keeping employees motivated and engaged during a time of change:

Create and (more importantly) stick to company values

Company values give people a framework that guides their actions and educates people about what the company stands for, particularly when it comes to a business’ principles, beliefs and ethos.

Our first instinct might be to pull together a list of values, stick them on our website and consider it a done deal – but this is all wrong.

Company values have to be allowed to develop naturally and collaboratively. In our experience, letting the entire company have a say in the business’s values helps to create a united culture. 

When we created our company values, we decided to put our employees at the heart of the decision-making process. To do this, we asked, what does eight&four mean to you? The feedback has influenced every aspect of our business, from how we run team socials to client liaison and even to how we carry out recruitment.

Recognise employee achievements in unique and interesting ways

A common misconception is that you can only motivate your employees through monetary means.

It’s simply not true.

In fact, there are few situations at work when offering more money is the most effective strategy. Take the day-to-day contributions of each employee. In these instances, dishing out bonuses will not only look odd, but certainly won’t make much business sense.

In our experience you need to ensure your employees know they’re valued by their colleagues, their peers and by the business. To do this you need a joined-up formal and informal approach to giving feedback. In doing so you are creating a company culture that inspires confidence and ensure there is a constant spotlight on teams and individuals.

Old-fashioned ways of giving feedback solely via rigid appraisals are out of place. At eight&four, we deliver our formal feedback through a performance development plan that is based on company values. This helps us to ensure that we reward, promote and advance those who are committed to our ethos. It also guides our recruitment process.

We also have a WhatsApp group containing everyone from our MD to our interns. It’s a great way to continually provide informal positive reinforcements and shout-outs to employees who have gone beyond expectations. We like to think of it as a giant feedback loop (often in the form of memes, gifs and emojis!).

Knowing when to say no and put your culture first

When you first start out as a business, you are in survival mode. You do everything you can to earn respect and longevity.

But when you exit the start-up phase you can get pulled in any number of directions, some of which may not be compatible with the company culture you want to maintain.

When you find yourself in these situations, ask yourself, “What did our company do when we were in survival mode? What was the ethos we stood for that made us successful? Is this new venture compatible with that?”

If the answer is anything but a firm yes, then don’t do it. Your company culture is the heartbeat of your business and leaders should work to prevent it from turning toxic.

Company culture is all too often lost amid a sea of other commitments when exiting the start-up phase. If your business is known for a strong culture that is built on real honest values, good things will happen. A bit like karma. Don’t allow it to be side-lined – get your culture right and you’ll have greater success in nurturing long term loyalty with employees and clients.

About the Author

Amy McCulloch

Amy McCulloch

Amy McCulloch co-founded eight&four 2008. eight&four is a Creative and Media Agency which has grown up alongside the launch of Instagram, the death of organic and the shrinking of consumer attention spans. Quality over quantity, audience focus and cutting through in a culture of meaningless messaging is high on its agenda. The agency’s unique structure and approach has helped eight&four secure major clients in the travel, FMCG and charity sectors.

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