Can a growing business maintain its culture?

My business is enjoying a rapid rate of growth but I’m concerned that service levels will drop due to expansion. How can I maintain the culture and standards of my business as we expand?

A. Rick Holroyd of Holroyd Howe writes:

Firstly, you are not alone. As you grow, you will release responsibilities and, at some point, you will have to defi ne the goalposts and set out certain standards.

If you fail to do this, there will be a lack of clarity and a dilution of your product. If you don’t have a clear understanding of the business at the coalface, whether it’s under one roof or de-centralised, then your growth will be stunted.

Identify those people within your organisation who hold the same values and ethics as you. You should take these people and put them in positions of seniority as exponents of your ethics and values.

This frees you to work hard on the communication within the business. You must have various mechanisms and innovative methods of keeping your communication channels strong.

For example, we have a quarterly message, which is no more than two paragraphs long, that tells everyone in the business what we are doing.

We have developed a sophisticated website with an extranet, which has message board facilities. We then get lateral, peer to peer, as well as vertical communication. You can go on to the message board yourself to inform staff of what’s going on.

Another method you could use is text alerts, although only good news should be used in messages to your mobile phone holders. If there’s been a contract win, a promotion or a retention, send the news out on a text message.

Text messaging is instantaneous and it provides a lift to your employees. If you grow rapidly, there will be more company mobile phones – so use them.

When we find out there’s a new manager or new head chef starting somewhere we make a point of making an early call to say ‘welcome’ – something that doesn’t happen to many staff from an MD.

Saying that, it’s absolutely critical to trust your staff. The company that has won The Sunday Times Top 100 Companies to Work For for the last three years is W L Gore, a business that makes Gore-Tex. I went to see the MD and asked what he put it down to. He said that it’s down to training your people and trusting them.

You have to trust people and allow them to make mistakes – 99.9% of people come to work to do a good job.

There are always challenges to maintain these things because the business itself changes. You can’t stick to one method and expect it to last the life of the company.

However, although the systems may change, the soul has to be consistent. There has to be some personality in the way you communicate.


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