By Grier Allen
Eight years ago, nine of us were working out of a cramped office attempting to create a revolutionary product for the real estate industry. Fast forward to the present, and we now have over 200 employees with 20,000+ product users.
And the secret to our growth is simple: We learned as a team to operationalize our culture. Culture wasn’t a “thing” when we started out. But when any business begins to hire aggressively and also tries to maintain the startup vibe at the same time, there needs to be a system in place.
Experiencing exponential growth will make anyone realize culture simply does not just happen. You have to put pen to paper and operationalize your company experience. Here’s how you do it:
1. Create the Anchors of Business Expansion
Begin with the team that built your company. Together, put pen to paper and decipher what culture means in your business. Zappos’ Tony Hsieh’s “mountains and valleys” exercise is an excellent place to start for this.
Our experience with this exercise resulted in the eight “core values” below:
- Create amazing experiences.
- Communicate openly and honestly.
- Do the right thing.
- Spread some laughter and have fun.
- Go for it.
- Do more with less.
- Stay humble.
- Seek and share knowledge.
Much like a great idea, it’s easy to become excited and want to open the floodgates to release your newly minted cultural tenants. But when it comes to instituting company culture, be intentional.
2. Hire With Culture in Mind
Culture starts with your company’s leadership team. When you need more people to fuel success, your leadership has to prioritize core values on an equal playing field with experience.
Consider doing so by adding culture interviews to your interview process. These interviews serve as a hangout session of sorts for the interviewee to get a feel for your company, and visa versa.
And after a new hire joins your team, don’t stop there. Amazing experiences are harder to maintain when a business is broken off into silos of people who don’t communicate. To avoid this, make sure every new addition to the team is well versed in the operations of each team and department. This can be easily done in a new hire “onboarding” process. Weave informational sessions into the process where new hires are able to meet, greet, and learn about the people and processes surrounding your business.
3. Implement Culture Into Daily Operations
The next step to operationalizing culture is working to have an organic culture. A business culture shouldn’t feel forced or awkward if it comes from the people who built and branded your particular breed of company culture.
It is much easier to overcome obstacles if everyone in the company is aware and working toward success together. But to do so, people must stay informed. Share successes, failures, obstacles, and mistakes with everyone. This can be easily done through monthly company-wide emails and quarterly all-inclusive gatherings.
Another way to keep an organic culture will come from how you conduct meetings. When differing opinions or approaches take center stage, time can easily get away from you. Instead of allowing disagreements to derail the train of progress, bring up a company core value such as “communicate openly and honestly” to get it back on track. Mentioning a core value in the middle of a meeting may sound corny, but it will instantly diffuse emotion and bring everyone back to the meeting’s focus.
4. Measure the ROI of Company Culture
How do you tabulate cultural contributions to overall ROI? Company culture cannot be bottled and sold, and it is not interpreted by every person the same way. What you can prove is how it serves as a release valve for a growing operation.
An unfortunate side effect of expansion is more pressure: the pressure to get things done, the pressure to fund your growing venture, the pressure to track and measure success. When you lessen the pressures of your growing company, team members will automatically generate more amazing experiences. In other words, culture creates quality from people wanting to create great work. If you want to measure the return on your culture investment, look no further than the time your business saves when people actually want to get work done.
In a booming industry like real estate technology, nothing is more valuable than time and talent. The ability to efficiently solve problems, reach conclusions, and move on to the next big thing is invaluable. Whether it is brainstorming an email marketing campaign, formulating a product development road map, or helping a client adapt to a new website, operationalizing culture empowers employees to go for it with gusto. When your mission aligns with the goals of everyone in the company, you get results.