How to Protect Your Company Culture as You Grow

Your company culture is one of the most important aspects of your company to cultivate and protect. As you know, your culture largely determines whether your enterprise is a success or a failure. It’s important to protect your company culture as you grow you’re company.

However, as your company grows, your culture is going to have to evolve with your business. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that your fast and loose startup culture has to evaporate just because you’ve gotten big enough to need an accounting department. It just means that a few key screws may need tightening, and the emphasis may need to shift a bit from loose to fast.

Here’s how you can cross some major growth landmarks without losing your charming startup culture.

Keep your teams small.

Adding employees to your company doesn’t mean that you need to succumb to the all-mighty multi-department structure. Break your business goals down into the smallest manageable blocks, and assign fast, mobile, close-knit teams to each objective.

Collaboration between your teams is important, but breaking down your company mission this way enables your employees to take ownership of part of that mission. It also helps maintain the feel of startup because employees can work with people they know really well, instead of people they barely know and only communicate with via email.

Pay attention to what’s working for your teams, and do more of that.

If you’re planning on expanding your office space, spend some time in the building while your employees are working and look at how they’re using the space. Don’t pigeonhole yourself into building out a cubicle-sectioned office if your teams are working effectively and efficiently by collaborating in the few common areas your current office has. Build more common areas.

The same goes for policies. If you’ve been running on a non-traditional schedule, letting your employees start and end later, and your teams are nailing their deadlines and goals, don’t force an earlier start just because it might be a little more challenging to keep up with accountability with more employees.

In short, take time to find out what enables your teams to be more effective, and expand those things as you grow your company.

Hire people that are the best fit for your company culture, not for the position.

Even very proficient professionals will struggle in an environment that doesn’t suit them. As an organization expands, the process of adding new team members often gets offloaded to management or supervisors. This is fine, as long as whoever is doing the hiring understands that you don’t want the best person to fill a seat. You want the best person who compliments your existing team.

This helps avoid hiring bad apples, and preserves your current culture. However, it also demonstrates respect for your employees, since the company is keeping their needs in mind as it adds new people.

Make sure that your hiring process involves evaluating attitude and personality just as much as it evaluates competence.

Change procedures, not values.

In a larger corporation, there are certain things that need to happen. There are likely going to be a few more processes for accountability and more emphasis on tight accounting. It’s likely that your long-time employees are going to need to do a few extra things to ensure everything is on the up-and-up.

Additional procedures are fine. New company values aren’t so fine. The main struggle with updating company values as a company grows, is that they almost always veer toward all work and no play, or at least more work and less play.

If you’ve established a more relaxed company culture that emphasizes flexibility and meeting objectives over putting in a rigid forty hour week, find ways to preserve that culture even as your teams grow.

Generally people tend to buck less against needing to do a bit more, especially if they enjoy their job. It’s forcing them to change how they get their job done that will really rub them the wrong way.

Communicate clearly to your teams what procedures will need to be added or changed and why, but also be clear that they’re still free to do business as usual as long as the deadlines are being met.

Ease Transitions for Your Employees.

It’s natural for companies to undergo some transitions as they grow. Managers will come and go. Founders may part ways. These are often good things that help your business expand, but they can also cause some turmoil around the office.

During these types of changes, your employees need two things: they need to know what’s going on, and they need to be able to continue working. Be transparent with your employees. Let them know what the company is doing and why.
At the same time, don’t let the change become a disruption that causes productivity to fall. Let the employees know that unless something directly affects them, like moving to a new office space, they can—and should—continue to do business as usual.

Additionally, avoid saddling your employees with additional duties during these times. If the majority of the work that needs to be done is best taken care of by the upper echelon of your company, do as much as possible without requesting help from your employees.

As your company grows, preserve the values that are important to you, and make a plan for how your company will look with those values implemented on a larger scale. Values and company culture will scale with your business even better than perks and pay packages.

What’s your current company culture like?