What does culture mean for a small or medium sized business?

What does culture mean for a small or medium sized business?


One of my goals this year is to read one business book every month. My selections so far have centered a lot around culture. I’m also listening to a lot of podcasts and again the topic always comes back to culture. We often think about the culture of a business in relation to a large corporation. Creating an effective company culture is easier, however, before you scale to the thousands of employees spread all over the globe.

So what does culture mean?

John Coleman describes six aspects he sees in companies with great culture: vision, values, practices, people, narrative, and place. Even small companies need these elements to move forward. Afterall, if you didn’t have a vision you wouldn’t have started your company.

As the company founder and CEO, I set the company culture for Momentum Consulting. If you’re in a similar role in your company, you do too. Your employees may bring with them certain ideas and even habits, but the culture of your company is set by what you demonstrate is important.

Some of our culture has developed a bit by accident. I want my team to know I value them and their role in the company’s success. When a team member has a birthday, we celebrate with lunch on me and a gift. When we sign a big contract, we celebrate with anything from coffee to lunch out. These are all part of my desire to show care for my people.

We’re also a family oriented company. As a mom of grade-school children, I know kids get sick, schools schedule odd holidays and babysitters flake out. It happens to moms and dads every day. So we operate on a flexible schedule.

We offer a lot of entry level jobs and provide training and experiences most recent college grads wouldn’t find at a larger company. It’s a perk of working for us. And in two or three years when our new college grad has some experience, he or she often moves on to even more impressive opportunities.And we celebrate, again, with food. (We like to eat, can you tell?)

How you and your staff treat your customers is part of your culture. How your physical office space looks is part of your culture. Even how quickly you respond to requests for information from co-workers, vendors or customers is part of your company culture.

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Marketing and company culture often conflict when you advertise something that isn’t backed up by your company culture. When you say your medical practice offers fast, friendly service but patients wait for three hours to see a provider while the receptionist growls at everyone who checks in, your culture tells a different story.

If you aren’t sure what your company culture is then your employees aren’t sure either. Talk to your team about what they see as company values. Compare their answers to what you’d like your company culture to be. Then work together to create a simple list of where your company stands.

Once you know your values and your vision, you can map out what that looks like in practice.

While changing and setting your culture must come from the top, you can’t dictate the change to your team. They must be involved in deciding how those practices look.

For some great resources on company culture, check out these articles:

How to Change and Transform Your Company Culture

Changing Company Culture Requires a Movement Not a Mandate

12 Tips for Creating the Perfect Company Culture for Your Small Biz