How and Why You Should Be Marketing Your Company Culture

Teamwork.The success of your company relies on so much more than profits. There are certain immeasurable factors that may not immediately prove their ROI, but are essential for the longevity of your business. One such factor is company culture. Establishing company culture begins from the top down. As a leader, it is your responsibility to set a positive tone for your business and embody that culture every single time you walk in the door.

To better understand the importance of company culture, we interviewed three TAB executives and collected their thoughts about how and why it’s so important to establish a company culture and then translate that vision to your employees, customers, community, and prospective hires.

What is Company Culture?

According to Andrew Hartley, Director of The Alternative Board (Bradford West), “Company culture is intangible and complex. It’s difficult to pin down, because there’s no app or spreadsheet that can grasp your corporate culture.”

So how do they define it?

“Company culture is not just your personal values and the values of those around you at work,” says Hartley. “It’s how those values interact with the challenges and experience of your market, the values and pressures added by your customers and suppliers and other stakeholders. This highly complex mix is your company’s culture.”

TAB Member Casey Lakey, Owner / General Manager at Trainer’s Club adds, “Company culture is the translation of the business owner’s vision and values.” According to Lakey, this begins with every staff member but, is equally important for managers and even business partners.

“Your core values are manifested in how your people behave, this is your culture,” says The Alternative Board (North San Antonio & TX Hill Country) President Don Maranca. “Core values mean nothing unless your culture or behaviour is consistent with them.”

Why is company culture so important?

Hartley ties company culture to your overarching business strategy. It can either be a “loud promoter” of your vision or a “silent killer.”

“When your culture and goals are not aligned, all of your efforts will feel like hard work and progress will become nearly impossible,” says Hartley. “When you get it right, everything flies and you exceed your own expectations. Effective company culture indirectly leads to results that everyone on your team and even in your business’s community will want to celebrate and be part of.

Maranca agrees that company culture impacts how you do business. “Company culture creates an expectation with your employees and customers.”

Why is it so important to translate your company culture to prospective customers? To prospective employees? To your local community?

To answer this question, Hartley quotes leadership author Simon Sinek, “Customers don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.”

“Your culture reflects who you really are and why you are there. If this fits with customers they will be your loyal followers and promoters,” says Hartley, “Without this connection, you are merely transacting and will have to work hard for every deal.”

Lakey adds that company culture increases your chances of building a referral marketing network, which is the most cost-effective way to spread word of your business. “If customers recognise and appreciate the culture of your company, they are more willing to return and share their experiences with other potential customers.”

According to Hartley, the same goes for employees, suppliers and the overarching community. Here, he cites The Leadership Challenge authors Jim Kouzes and Barry Posner, “If you align at a cultural level, you will earn the extra 20% of ‘discretionary’ effort that makes the best, the best.”

Lakey agrees with Hartley’s sentiment. “Employees that follow a positive company culture are better employees because they understand their role and are more likely to promote the business when interacting with customers and potential hires.”

As for the local community, Lakey believes “A business becomes a part of its community when the community recognises the culture and values the company promotes.”

What are some effective ways of marketing your company culture?

“You (the leader) are the best way to market your company culture,” says Maranca. “Achieve this by clearly communicating your core values and living them out intentionally in every interaction related to your business.”

“Cultural alignment can be one of your biggest assets,” adds Hartley. “It should influence the style, choice of channels, branding and tone of voice of your communications. All marketing needs to respect the central value of your business.”

Lakey recommends creating a series of keywords that emphasise your business’s company culture and core values and using them across all internal and external communications. For example, Lakeys’ terminology generally revolves around their mission statement: “Our mission is to create a sense of community for our members, employees and business partners.”

Company culture may be intangible, but it’s definitely not inconsequential. Having a well-defined culture, that is translated from the top down, can streamline all of your business’s processes and interactions.

If all of the elements of your business model are in place, but something still seems to be lacking, you may want to take a moment to reflect on your company’s culture. Are your employees happy? Are your customers? Are you? Asking these simple questions can reveal a lot about your business. If you’re having trouble establishing a positive company culture, get in touch with a local TAB board and see how a team of peer advisors can help you take your business to the next level.



How to Have Tough Conversations

I have found the following three approaches to help minimise potential anger and defensiveness when I am about to have a difficult conversation. First, focus on yourself and what you can do better. You can even ask the other person, “Please share what am I doing to make you feel or act that way.”

Second, focus on feelings instead of actions and blame. Use phrases such as “I feel this way” as opposed to “You did that!”

Third, ask “What do you need from me to make this work better?


Goodbye Boardroom: Meeting Styles are A-Changin’

Keep the Board, Change the Room

by Jennifer Rosen

It’s probably not every businessperson’s idea of the best part of the workday: the business meeting. It can be boring and long-winded, people might be afraid to express opinions—all sorts of reasons. However, the time of the dry and monotonous business meeting is over.

Nilofer Merchant, who serves on public and private company boards and has worked for major companies such as Apple, tells Wired she conducts one-on-one meetings as walks. So what about taking notes, using a whiteboard and cell phone reception? Technology, Merchant stresses, isn’t the key factor in a successful meeting. Sure, it can help facilitate a meeting, but it’s not what drives a good meeting.

One-on-one interactions, says Merchant, allow people to explore ideas, connect with each other and developed a shared purpose, and for those, nothing beats a side-by-side walk. Merchant also says many people wait until the meeting to share information, which wastes time going over “background” during the actual meeting. She recommends sending information in advance, which facilitates a better discussion by allowing people to form ideas and ask other people their viewpoints.

See how Bob Parsons handled meetings when he ran Parsons founded Go Daddy, the world’s biggest domain name registrar, and was the CEO for many years. The company has annual revenue of about $350 million and manages 32 million domain names for about six million customers around the world. So, you can imagine Parsons was a pretty busy guy. He told, however, that he was almost never behind his desk. Instead, he spent most of his day meeting with his staff. He’d sit at a cafeteria-style conference table, which he bought for $90, and about a dozen chairs. The utilitarian furniture conveys the right attitude, Parsons says: functional and cheap.

Meetings are more than just tables and chairs, though. As GoDaddy’s Bob Parsons says, “You don’t spend your money on office furniture—you spend it where it’s going to impact your customers.” Parsons says he managed everything from a 57-inch monitor hanging from his office ceiling, which he accessed with a wireless mouse and keyboard. Set to Go Daddy’s home page, a program tracks the company’s current market share and how many domain names it registers daily.

The Wall Street Journal also acknowledges more business meetings are literally “stand-up jobs.” For example, Atomic Object, a software-development firm in Grand Rapids, Mich., conducts company meetings first thing in the morning with nonwork chitchat kept to a minimum and everyone standing up. The object of such a meeting, according to the WSJ, is to get rid of long-winded meetings where people pontificate, play Angry Birds on their cell phones or simply tune out.

The meetings rarely last more than five minutes, after which employees perform a quick stretch and get on with their day, Atomic Object vice president, Michael Marsiglia, tells the WSJ. Such meetings have been found to be effective. The WSJ says Allen Bluedorn, a University of Missouri business professor, conducted a study in 1998 that discovered standing meetings were about a third shorter than those that involved sitting, with the quality of decision-making about the same.

So not only can business meetings be shorter, they can be just as effective, and without all the chaff — and the fancy, expensive chairs.

How about you?  If you find yourself leaving the boardroom for board meetings, what’s the preferred venue?

Jennifer Rosen is a cross-country runner, a small business advisor, and freelance writer who lives in Boston. 



5 Tips on Engaging Your Remote Employees

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Chances are, you employ — or are considering employing — some of the growing numbers of talented men and women who opt to work remotely. Offsite workers comprise an increasingly large segment of the workforce, with as many as 63 million employees working remotely in 2016.

Why this exponential growth? Progressive-thinking CEOs and business owners recognise that a remote team “allows you to source employees — and contract, specialist workers — from all over the world, increasing your talent pool, as well as your company’s global perspective.”

Of course, managing remote employees can be a challenge, in terms of productivity and engagement. Perhaps the single most daunting aspect is the element of isolation. After all, due to their geographical distance, these employees aren’t available to participate in casual workplace encounters, impromptu meetings in the CEO’s office or on-site brainstorming sessions.

“Workers who are more removed from the physical workplace have fewer opportunities for casual interaction with their managers and coworkers,” notes management consultant Darleen DeRosa. “Over time, this can lead remote workers to feel less valued and less satisfied with their jobs.”

So even if you’ve recruited the best remote employees in the global talent pool, if they’re not engaged in their jobs (and therefore feel less motivated and productive), how can they help your business grow?

Here are actionable tips you can take to ensure your remote workforce is aligned with (and enthusiastic about) your onsite company culture:

1. Leverage technology to stay in touch. There’s nothing quite like the casual conversations employees have onsite, both with each other and with their managers, but with the advent of chat tools and video conferencing, it’s possible to replicate informal lines of communication with your remote workers. Using tools like Skype, GoToMeeting, Google Hangouts, etc., encourages offsite employees to contact you with project-related questions or let them know you’ll “drop in” on them from time to time, just to touch base or get answers to your own questions. Video conferencing enables both sides to have some valuable face-time, which furthers a sense of involvement all around.

2. Always include remote workers in onsite meetings. There’s a tendency to forget or overlook remote team members in your weekly or bi-weekly staff meetings. Get these meetings on their schedule, so they can actively participate with ideas and feedback. This, too, makes them feel more like part of the team.

“Just as important, when you’re handing out assignments, brainstorming or discussing solutions to problems, remember to include remote employees in the process,” suggests business technology writer Minda Zetlin.

3. Schedule face-to-face meetings. It may not always be practical, but particularly with newly hired remote employees, look for opportunities to schedule a face-to-face meeting in the workplace—or if a manager happens to be travelling near where the remote employee is based. Even a single in-person encounter helps cement a successful working relationship and lays the groundwork for a more engaged attitude with the team.


4. Keep them in the loop with your company newsletter. Maintaining contact through a regularly scheduled newsletter is another great way to boost offsite employee engagement. Content for the newsletter can range from informative (news about product launches, companywide initiatives, etc.) to informal (holiday greetings, updates on physical renovations, etc.).

Consider spotlighting an employee with each issue, so remote workers learn new things about their team members. Or spotlight a high-performing offsite employee, so people in your office better understand the contributions these remote workers are making to the business.

5. Incorporate recognition of offsite employee contributions and milestones. Recognition of remote employees’ contributions doesn’t have to be limited to a company newsletter. Include a public acknowledgement of significant offsite achievements in staff meetings. Salute remote workers’ efforts on your company’s social media networks. When an employment milestone occurs, send them an e-card or offer a digital rewards program where they can choose a gift online. These efforts reinforce the sense among your virtual workforce that “we’re all in this together.”

When it comes to remote employee engagement, “out of sight, out of mind” is a constant peril. But promoting communications and collaboration with these employees is worth your investment of time and effort. As Darleen DeRosa reminds us, “To allow teams to succeed in a workplace that is increasingly remote, employers need to take extra care to do the things that come more naturally in a face-to-face environment.”


Leverage Information Systems and Technology to Strengthen Your Sales Culture

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Anyone involved in sales will likely agree that conventional sales processes of the past—even the recent past—are giving way to a new order. The newer approach leverages the use of digital technology to enhance virtually every aspect of the sales process, thus enhancing efficiency and reducing redundancy and other time-consuming aspects of sales.

The question for small business owners is, how quickly can you adopt new technology and leverage it to boost sales and build a strong sales culture? Here are action steps you can take to incorporate advances in technology and get your sales team on board with changes for the best sales culture ROI:

Explore the world of sales apps. There’s a bounty of sales rep and sales enablement apps available out there. Such tools include e-signature apps (for quicker approvals and closing of deals); digital to-do lists to share with fellow sales team members; and apps that offer real-time updates on various accounts. Anything that makes your sales staff more effective is well worth looking into.

Adopt sales automation software. Many sales-related tasks that once had to be performed manually now take dramatically less time and effort due to automation. Email software, for example, automates follow-up messages to prospects, messages that can be personalised and closely tracked for data-collection and other purposes.

Other technology enables sales reps to proactively suggest relevant and informative content that keeps prospects informed about industry news and their company’s offerings.

Create an internal CRM platform. As with apps, there are plenty of generic CRM platforms available for businesses to choose from. A better solution is investing in the creation of an internal sales platform geared to your company’s unique processes and culture. This way, you get a far more insightful compilation of data related to client accounts, user interaction and conversion rates. Many of the more sosphisticated platforms are configurable to your unique sales processes for your firm and your industry.

Sometimes sales teams are slow to recognise the value of new technology. To move the needle in this area, here are tips to keep in mind:

Act as a “tech champion.” Whether it’s the CIO or another member of your executive team, an individual who actively promotes adoption of new technology can help spur acceptance within the organisation. By clearly communicating the reasons behind this approach—and the ways in which the sales team directly benefits—this “tech champion” serves to represent the depth of the organisation’s commitment to adopting new technology.

Promote training for the team. Sales reps might more enthusiastically welcome new resources if they have the proper coaching and training.

“Sales coaching should be a proactive practice—not a reactive measure at the end of the quarter,” notes sales strategist Shelley Cernel. By using the right sales technology, you can “provide dynamic sales training content, recommend the most effective training materials and content, and outline best practice next step for sales reps.” Just as importantly, Cernel adds, sales tools “also provide leadership with the insights to identify areas of improvement.”

Technology is revolutionising both the sales process and the customer experience, making it easier for sellers and buyers to interact in an efficient, mutually beneficial manner. It’s worth investigating how to leverage new sale technology to benefit your customers as well.

Want more advice on improving your sales process? Find out if a TAB Board is right for you!