Trailblaze & Grow Tag: culture

Strong Culture

Building a Culture that Ensures Your Company’s Success

Entrepreneurs often overlook company culture during their first weeks in business. While many prioritize other aspects of their business, they risk sacrificing a potential differentiator. A company’s culture is vital to securing a good reputation, encouraging employee loyalty, and fostering collaboration with other businesses. Whatever your other responsibilities, it’s essential to begin building a corporate culture from day one by:

Veering Toward Values

The first step is to identify specific values that you can easily be put into practice. Generic values like equality, innovation, and employee safety are good at the start, but focus on values that relate specifically to your business. If your company provides home insulation services, for example, you have the potential to reduce your customers’ household energy use and associated pollution, so environmental sustainability will be an easy value to promote in your ordinary business practices. Likewise, if you work in software or network design, information security and privacy protection are ideal values.

For example, Trailblaze Growth Advisors ties its values to helping firms of all sizes improve their appeal and increase profitability. Our values include:

  • Hands-On Operations – The Trailblaze team doesn’t advise from the sidelines. We involve ourselves in your business as directly as possible and offer practical solutions for specific problems.
  • Pursuing Perfection – We constantly seek new information, learning as much as possible, so that we never encounter a problem we don’t know how to solve. Whenever our efforts fall short, we learn from our mistakes and improve our company.
  • Cultivating Collaboration – We incorporate as many experiences and opinions as possible, working with experts from all fields to find the best solutions.
  • Guaranteeing Our Goals – We set clear objectives and always fulfill or exceed them.

Draw Up Documents

Once you’ve decided on values for your business, make sure to articulate them to employees and customers alike. Write all of your values down, incorporate them into training programs, and devote a page of your company website to them. The sooner you make your values clear, the easier it is for your employees to embody them, and the quicker your business will gain a reputation for them.

Articulating company values also gives your employees a chance to become involved in the emerging corporate culture. Encourage them to read through the values, identify omissions, and make suggestions for improvement. The more involved your employees are in this process, the more motivated they will be to promote your company culture and the better that culture will reflect your employees’ attitudes and actions.

Construct a Culture

Putting your company culture into action means giving credit to every employee who promotes that culture. Any of your employees’ actions that embody your values, however small, should be met with praise. Consider holding monthly ceremonies in which you publicly recognize employees who promoted your values and reward them with raises or prizes. Keep permanent records of these achievements on your website or on plaques. You must also negatively sanction employees who fail to live up to your values, giving them an ultimatum to comply. One unfaithful employee can give the whole company a bad reputation.

As the leadership team, you must embody your company’s values in all areas of your life, and not just at work. If one of your values is sustainability, for example, consider insulating your home, installing solar panels, and biking to work. The more commitment you show to your culture, the more it will be taken seriously.

Engender Evolution

As your business grows, attracts new customers, and responds to changes in technology, your company’s culture will have to adapt. Encourage your employees to discuss your values and find new ways of promoting them in the changing market. Your company will change, but as long as it remains committed to its core values, it can continue to garner respect among employees, customers, and the business community.

Don’t overlook something as crucial as culture. Check out our sources to learn more about founding a company on strong values.

Sources:

  • #GIRLBOSS by Sophia Amorusa
  • http://www.inc.com/eat-big-fish/why-successful-start-ups-need-to-build-a-culture-of-overcoming.html
  • http://venturebeat.com/2012/05/14/startup-culture-tips/
  • http://www.forbes.com/sites/groupthink/2013/10/04/how-to-build-a-great-company-culture/
  • http://www.huffingtonpost.com/anne-hill/small-business-success-advice-_b_1564803.html;
  • https://hbr.org/2015/04/why-company-culture-is-a-misleading-term; www.entrepreneur.com/article/242141

Photo credit: Orin Zebest / Foter / CC BY

Team Building

Six Ways to Help Your Marketing Team Deliver Results

Is a marketing team different than any other workgroup? Sort of.

Marketing is one of those disciplines that can look easier than it is. Those who are great at it are constantly updating their tactics to stay fresh and continually grab attention.  They stay on top of breaking news; customer feedback; new technologies and media; and the vast amount of first-, second- and third-party data.  The best marketers then consolidate all the ingredients into integrated, immersive programs to achieve the company’s goals.

Because marketing teams do not produce traditional widgets, a truly great marketing team will be extremely diverse.  Ideally, marketing teams leverage data to come up with concepts that deliver results — revenue, users, subscribers, customer experience and more. They use words and visuals in select mediums to encourage desired actions.  This requires that the team have strengths in analytics, creative design, content development, project management, marketing communications, product development and cross-functional leadership.  The one skill that cut across all functions is creativity.  (Yes, data scientists and project managers are just as creative as designers and writers.)

Managing such a diverse team can be a challenge, but surprisingly, it is not too different than managing other groups of people. According to R. Keith Sawyer, a professor at Washington University in St. Louis, anyone can learn to be creative, and good creativity is further stimulated by working with other people. But for businesses trying to create a dynamic, productive atmosphere for their creative teams, here’s how to start:

  • Build a genuine culture. Whether your whole team is on site or some members are remote, you need to find ways to make the real and virtual environments positive, stimulating and organized. All three of these are easier said than done, but you have to start somewhere. Kevin Barber, author of “How to Build a High Performance Marketing Team”on HubSpot, said the ideal team culture contains a blend of integrity, character, love and loyalty. This helps create the foundation, but the shape of the building is up to everyone on the team.
  • Track whenever and wherever possible.  If you do not measure something, you can’t understand it. If you don’t understand something, you can’t improve it.  Set goals and measure the drivers and achievement against those goals. Armed with this data, you and the team can take the proper tactics to achieve them. These could be broad conceptual goals, such as “increase revenue,” or specific goals, such as “grow social media presence by X amount in a certain time period.”
  • Evaluate at your team. You may need to adjust your team and add more members as people move on or more resources become available or are needed. I agree with Joanna Lord, a contributor to Entrepreneur, who suggests that someone’s “fit” in the culture should be more of a consideration than professional skill sets.  Not everyone will have the interest or aptitude to continue based on the teams goals. Stack rank your team by aptitude, interest and skill level.  Always share feedback and put performance plans in place to help everyone adjust to the new standards.
  • Look for gaps. Where is your team’s performance falling short?  Do you have enough resources to achieve those goals?  Which skills does your team lacking? Do your internal partners share your goals? Do your processes support or hinder achieving your goals? Team members should be tasked with projects that overcome the roadblocks identified in this exercise should be prioritized with run-the-business activities.
  • Create a roadmap. Having different broad and specific goals established provides the team with a “destination.” Moreover, putting programs in place to engage everyone provides the team a sense of a bigger picture and how they personally help the team achieve its goals.
  • Make Progress.  Team members should be tasked with strategic projects that overcome the gaps identified in the exercise above.  Set deliverables and timelines with each project lead and share them with the entire team.  Strategic projects should be prioritized and tracked alongside run-the-business activities.  Remember to report progress of projects and acknowledge each person for their roles in making something good happen, which also helps foster camaraderie

Overall, optimizing a marketing team’s performance can be tricky. Good managers can find a way to do so, such as how people rank individually and collectively on department goals. Better managers will find ways to not only quantify everyone’s efforts but foster a dynamic culture — it’s going to take time and buy-in, but the results can create a solid, efficient team.

Photo credit: Create-Learning Team Building & Leadership / Foter / CC BY