Find Your Why and Build a Great Company Culture

You have a company. You have a product, you have employees, and you have clients. But something seems to be missing, and you can’t quite place what it is.

You may be missing a company “Why”.

And if you are missing your “Why”, you may also be missing a strong company culture. The two work together in a lot of ways.

I’ve worked in some amazing cultures and a few that have been complete shit. Last year our company was recognized as a “Best Places to work” by the Memphis Business Journal.

Here are a few tips that we have used to build a culture that fosters loyalty and excellent work.

How to Find Your “Why”

Let’s start with your “Why”.

Your Why is the purpose behind your company and brand. It should be the reason you get up every day and the passion you could talk about forever. Yet, sometimes it’s hard to articulate exactly what that Why is and how you can put it to good use.

The most basic version of your Why is as simple as why you feel like anyone needed whatever product you give them. Why do people need floor cleaner? Because floors get dirty. Why do people need snow tires? Because it snows.

But if 20 other companies sell snow tires, why did you start selling them? Figuring that out will be the next level of your company Why.

What motivated you to start your company? What do you do better than any of those other 20 companies? Why is the team you’ve put together the best team? Why does your passion make your company special?

Without an answer to these questions, you will never be as successful as you could be.

The most successful companies make a clear difference in the lives of their clients, as well as their employees. Your employees are as important as your clients, if not even more so.

Our “why” is to create positive outcomes for the families and lives we touch. My family is the most important thing in the world to me. I feel a sense of responsibility to protect and care for them while giving them the opportunity to fulfill their dreams. Our employees are family, our clients are family and our vendor partners are family.

This is where company culture comes in.

You can be successful without a company culture. But you can’t reach your full potential, or fully enjoy that success without having a company culture that keeps both your clients and your employees happy.

Outcome of supporting individuals


Building a Great Company Culture

I’m passionate about this is because I know what happens when it goes wrong.

Nothing ruins a job experience like a lack of culture or bad culture. You may love your job description, but a bad culture leaves you always looking for a way out.

Imagine you wake up on a Monday and your stomach drops at the thought of having to get out of bed just to go to the job you hate. The only thing that motivates you to get ready is the thought of your car payment and your empty refrigerator. So you get in your car and hope that you hit every red light on the way. For the next 8 hours, you sit at your desk and think about how much you hate being where you are, while occasionally getting a little work done here or there.

Does that sound like the kind of employee you want at your company? No! Of course not. The thing is, the company may be more to blame than the employee.

You can’t blame the employee for only going to work to get paid. I mean, would you go to work if you could be a billionaire while sitting at home all day? Probably not. You would spend your time doing whatever it is that makes you feel fulfilled, happy and stimulated.

Great company culture makes sure that employees feel fulfilled, happy, and stimulated by their jobs. It also gives them a path to reach their goals. As a good leader, you should see it as your responsibility to make sure that your employees are excited to come to their job every day.

This ties into your company “Why”. The difference your company is making should be so compelling to your employees that they’re 100% committed and want to put the best parts of their talents towards accomplishing that goal.

This is why your “Why” can’t just be to make more money for the company. Your employees aren’t motivated by making you more money. It also gives the impression that you are not interested in them as people, but instead are only interested in what they can do for you.

The good news is that even thinking about your company culture is a sign that you are trying to see the people in your company as valuable individuals who deserve to love where they work.

Now that you know you need a company culture, let’s figure out what you’re working with now.

How to Evaluate Your Company Culture

Do any of these sound like your office?

  • Employees who gossip and complain about the company
  • Employees who come and go quickly
  • Employees who leave as early as they can each day
  • Employees who procrastinate and don’t meet deadlines
  • Employees who are anxious
  • Employees who feel like their hard work goes unnoticed
  • Employees who feel like their leaders don’t care about them or how they feel.
  • Employees who are afraid of being fired if they make any mistake, no matter how small.

These are people who feel trapped where they are and want to be anywhere else.

On the other hand, here are some examples of good company culture:

  • Employees who joke and have fun with their coworkers.
  • Employees who bond over difficult clients, not difficult bosses.
  • Employees who are more interested in solving the problem than going home as soon as they can
  • Employees who are excited to share their ideas.
  • Employees who get their work done on time and with excellence.
  • Employees who feel valuable
  • Employees are not afraid of being fired if they make a mistake
  • Employees who are excited to build a future with the company

If this is already true about your workplace, good job! Keep doing whatever it is you’re doing.

Building Your Best Company Culture

But if it’s not, we need to get to the root of what makes the difference.

Ultimately, it boils down to whether your employees feel respected and trusted, and whether they feel that they are in control of their own time. In fact, one of the biggest factors of employee satisfaction is autonomy.

A healthy company culture recognizes how valuable and capable each employee is. Not just as a machine to do what you need them to, but a person with interests, motivations, goals, and fears. I look for employees who hate to be micro-managed. They fit perfectly into our culture and ensures that we have a team full of self-starters who know how to solve problems.

As a leader, you should think of your employee’s day to day needs instead of just your own. Yes, in the big picture you need them to do their work well so you can all be successful. But on a Monday when your employee didn’t want to get out of bed, do you need them to be in the office at 8 O’clock sharp (9 at ours) or do you need them to do their best work? Even if their best work means they sleep in, take a walk, make some coffee, and come in at noon?

Odds are, at the end of the day with the first choice, you will end up with mediocre work that will need re-done anyway, while at the end of the second one you will get what you wanted in the first place.

Does that sound like a crazy change? Or logical thinking? The answer to that question will give you some insight into your culture.

You can create a culture full of happy employees because they know that you care about how they feel and don’t want them to spend the day wanting to bang their head against their desk. They will also know you trust them to do their work without being micromanaged.

If you want your employees to trust you, listen to their ideas! You hire them because they are talented, so let them be talented.

Your employees need the freedom to have both bad and good ideas, and they need to know that they won’t be ridiculed if they have a bad idea.

Company culture is not about surface level perks, but about how those perks make the employee feel. It’s about employees knowing that their boss cares how their life is going outside of work, and values that benefit employees, clients, and ultimately the broader communities they participate in.

Of course, a good company culture also depends on how well your team works together. Even if you make it clear how much you respect someone, if the person at the desk next to them is a bully, they will still dread getting up in the morning.

Hiring the Best Fit For Your Culture

Part of building a company culture means hiring people for more than just their skills. You have to also make sure that anyone who joins your culture will fit.

A great way to make sure that each person on your team will work well together is to ask culture centered interview questions along with skills centered questions.

Some questions to ask might be:

  • When are you at your best?
  • What do you like about our company?
  • Why did you decide to apply for this job?
  • What is your dream job?
  • How would you describe yourself?
  • Describe your ideal work week.
  • Are you self-motivated, or do you prefer to follow instructions?
  • Do you like to work alone or part of a team?
  • What is your favorite way to spend your free time?

All these questions will help you find out more about a candidate beyond their technical skill set. If you get lucky, you may end up with a potential employee who asks you questions to try to figure out your company culture.

Someone being interviewed may ask:

  • What is the dress code here?
  • Can you show me around the office?
  • How is the company involved in the community?
  • How long have the people on my team been with the company?
  • What is your expectation of success, and what kind of time frame do you have for that?
  • What do most people do during lunch?

These questions may seem simple, but they give clues about the culture and allow a potential employee to decide whether they will like working with you, while you are trying to figure out if they fit your culture.

Becoming a Great Place to Work

In 2018, Neon Canvas was named one of the best places to work in Memphis by the Memphis Business Journal.

The core of how we did that is our ability to connect with employees in a meaningful way. It’s important to get to know what their motivations and needs are, and respond to those motivations in a way that matters whenever possible.

If we all know and appreciate what motivates each one of us, we begin to feel like what we are doing matters, and that the people we are doing it with want to succeed.
For a team to work well together, they need to spend time together doing more than just working. Our team grows together because each person has the opportunity to share some of their unique knowledge with the rest of the team.

We also have the opportunity to do community service together. This gives us all the chance to do something more significant than just making money, and we get to do it together.

Being a great place to work is something that we are really proud of, and hope to keep building on.

Have any questions for me about building a company culture? Drop them in the comments below or find me @thealexras.

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