Company culture? We’ve all tried to define it; most of us have tried to create it.

In fact, large companies spend millions of dollars a year with surveys, management training to foster sustainability and events to spur creativity and engagement with employees. Let me re-peat: Millions. For us small businesses, that number is what we’d like to make in revenue, let alone company culture.

So what can you do as a small business owner to create an environment so your employees can sing Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious?

Think Ben and Jerrys, IBM, Southwest Airlines – all of these companies have it or at least did at one time. What do these companies have in common?

1. Be an industry leader and demonstrate sustainability for your industry and others as a whole. Your employees will feel empowered and inspired by doing something good, which creates passion for coming to work every single day. Ben & Jerrys cofounder, Ben Cohen and Patagonia founder, Yvon Chouinard, are two of the icons that have embraced this and created a respectable company culture.

2. Make sure growth doesn’t dilute company culture. Starbucks does this even though they have a bazillion stores. No matter what size you are, act like a smaller company. As the CEO, keep an open door policy; talk to interns; liberate employees of all levels to try and experiment with new things –you never know what new ideas will stick.

3. Recognize and address employee concerns immediately. By ignoring them, your employees will gossip, wander and do anything but be productive. If you notice your culture is becoming more and more dysfunctional, address it (see next post) and involve employees to make it change.

4. Do more for your employees, after all, every single patent, product and process came from a person. Wegmans Food Markets, a large grocery chain headquartered in Rochester, NY, is listed as one of the best places to work. Why? By treating their employees’ right, which makes them work harder and makes the company more money. A previous employee for the company who I interviewed said he got a bonus each year on his hire date for the average amount of hours worked that year and an extra bonus every six months. In addition, he received cheap prescriptions and even a college scholarship all for being a part-time employee.

5. Evaluate employees not only on performance, but on core values you want your company to embrace. Jack Ma, CEO of (the largest B2B marketplace in the world) evaluates each employee on six core values: customer first, team work, embracing change, integrity, passion and commitment. The company’s IPO value in November 2007 was the second largest in Internet history at $36 billion, second only to Google. That said, he must be doing something right.

About the Author(s)

Betsy Brottlund

Guest Blogger
How to create great company culture