It’s a common problem facing many fast-growing businesses: How do you maintain the great company culture you had as a young start-up when your company is scaling so rapidly?
Speaking at this year’s Inc. 500|5000 conference, Paul Spiegelman, co-founder of the Inc. Small Giants Community, offered up some insights to that question. It’s a topic he has experience with. Spiegelman grew his business, the Beryl Companies, from three people to 400. After selling it last year to Stericycle, a large public company, Spiegelman stayed on as Chief Culture Officer to tackle the challenge of bringing a positive culture to Stericycle’s more than 14,000 employees. Here are some of the tips he gave attendees on making culture something that can grow along with your business.
1. Make company culture a priority. “Scaling culture is the last thing you’ll have to worry about if you make it the first thing you care about,” says Spiegelman. He suggests instituting a system of processes that makes culture a priority, which will grow naturally with your business as it expands. “No matter what stage you are at, culture needs to be a priority in your business,” says Spiegelman. “It isn’t easy, but there is nothing more fulfilling seeing the impact it makes on the lives of your people.”
2. Never compromise your values. At the heart of any company culture is a core set of values which should never change says Spiegelman. “Use those core values to lead your vision every day. Regardless of whatever other changes your company may face, those values need to remain unchanged.”
3. Don’t tolerate people who aren’t committed. Or, as Spiegelman less delicately puts it, “Get rid of the whiners, losers, and jerks.” Team members that don’t fit into the group can be toxic to a positive culture, so don’t hesistate to get rid of them. “You need to tell your team, ‘We are on a mission. If you don’t want to be part of that mission, you should go work somewhere else.'” He stressed that once you have made the decision to make culture a priority, then you should have no tolerance for team members who go against that decision.
4. Hire for fit, not skills. There will always be people out there with the skills capable of doing the job. So Spiegelman suggests hiring people that, first and foremost, would work well in your organization. It may take a little longer, but it will pay off in the long term.
The benefits of establishing a strong company culture go beyond just happy employees. Spiegelman stresses that there is a strong correlation between the well-being of your employees and the success of your business. “Happy employees lead to satisfied customers who will want to become loyal customers,” he says. “It all feeds back to the growth and success of your business.”