5 Ways to Scale Culture

Kauffman has simplified the life cycle of a business into four main stages: Startup, Scaling, Steady State and Decline. Scaling is about growth and repeating whatever is generating revenue without being constrained by structure.

When you are scaling aspects of the business, remember it is of vital importance to scale your culture, too. Organizational Culture—the values or behaviors that affect the environment of your business— impacts the organization's productivity and performance and provides guidelines on customer care and service, product quality and safety, attendance and punctuality, concern for the environment and much more. Culture is greatly influenced by the Founder and Senior Leaders of an organization.

If your vision, mission, and values statements are housed only on your wall or website, dust them off and take them to heart.  These words have the power to shape your culture. Beware. If you are not intentional about creating your unique culture, over time poor behaviors will get baked into your organization. Not only can your culture affect your bottom line, but it can also negatively impact your brand.

My 19-year old daughter is working her first retail job. I texted her and asked the usual question, “How was work?” She explained that while the store manager was away, one of her coworkers had a shouting match with a customer.

Texted response

The response made me laugh until I thought about other altercations that have been in the media lately.

While I recognize that what my daughter witnessed could have been an isolated incident, it made me wonder if there might be a larger problem of understanding culture. Did the employee understand the values of the organization? Did his beliefs about work match the organization's values?

How do you scale your unique culture?

1.    Live by example.

In addition to telling employees your core beliefs and values, show them. Workers watch the behaviors of leaders. Be a leader that your employees love to emulate.

2.    Be sure candidates understand the culture before they arrive for work.

Cultural fit is paramount. You want employees who will prosper in your culture because it fits their values and belief system about the way work gets done.

3.    Listen to employees about the less than desirable aspects of your culture and course correct early.

It is much easier to build the right culture from the start than to change an established one.

4.    Listen to employees about what they love about the culture and do that over and again.

At the heart of scaling your business is replication. To scale your culture, repeat good behaviors.

We are what we repeatedly do.
— Aristotle

5.    Learn from other leaders who are getting the culture thing right.

In a Forbes article, Matt Rissell, Co-founder and CEO of TSheets, describes what he did from day one to build the culture.

Today it's not easy to keep culture between you and your employees, especially with the invention of cellphone cameras and social media. What is done internally may be blasted for the world to see.