How to create a matching company and brand culture
A company needs to have a defined culture and brand message to succeed through the cluttered and highly competitive space. If you are founding your own company and feeling a little overwhelmed or if your company is growing at a rapid pace and you are unsure of how to align your business goals with cultural ones, we are here to help you get started.
While there are many aspects of brand identity and positioning to consider which go much further than a simple logo company culture is a core consideration for new businesses and startups, especially those with the intention of scaling up fast.
What is your company culture?
Company culture, also known as corporate culture, is, in essence, the personality of a company. It is associated with the environment in which employees work and their values and attitudes towards it. The culture is the manifestation of the company’s values.
Why is your company culture so important?
You will need to set up your own company culture and make it appear in your mission statement and values as well as your short- and long-term goals. It will become your company’s cornerstone and will evolve over time to become more defined as your organisation grows.
Your company culture will help employees to work towards and understand your company’s wider goals. By ensuring that your employees are happy, this will have a direct impact on your company’s success. Giving them clear objectives and making them feel comfortable working with you will help them stay motivated, focused and efficient. As a result, they will work harder at keeping customers satisfied and at generating more revenue.
This is especially true of a millennial-strong workforce where the underlying mission and value of the work done is as important as the wage earned.
Remember that brand trust is strongly linked to company’s culture and misfit between the two will harm your business. Uber’s recent scandal story has clearly demonstrated that their company cultural issues affected their brand reputation. When setting a cultural identity for your business it is important that this is laid out openly for new recruits and existing employees alike to avoid any kind of misunderstandings or worse, that could easily have otherwise been avoided.
As we will see, it is also fundamental that the cultural rules and values you set are adhered to and that all employees, especially the founding team and key stakeholders, investors etc. are fully in tune with what this means. Veering off from your cultural path can have a detrimental affect to the way your company and brand are perceived both internally and externally.
How can you create a solid company culture?
If you want your employees to be productive and your company to thrive, you need to know to what you are heading towards. Your company culture will impact its reputation and play an important role from the recruiting process onwards and drive your candidates’ decision whether to accept a job offer. Consequently, don’t underestimate its importance! These steps will help your company follow the right path:
- Create a clear mission statement
As previously mentioned, if you do not have a mission statement set up, you are set up to fail. Your brand needs to have a key set of values and a reason for being and these need to be set down for everyone to see. Your mission statement will help your employees understand why they come to work for you and what they need to do on a daily basis to make your organisation successful. Your mission statement is focusing on what to do and how to operate your business and how that relates to your brand by providing answers to the following questions:
- Key market: Who is your target client or customer?
- Contribution: What product or service do you provide to that client?
- Distinction: What makes your product or service unique, so that the client would choose you?
- Values: What is your reason for doing what you do?
- Provide a clear vision statement
Your vision statement is only focusing on the long-term and on what you want to achieve in the future. The vision is like your business’ roadmap to orientate your company and gives your employees the passion and drive to work harder to achieve your company’s goals. It is important that employees buy into the strategic goals of the business and brand. A company does not exist on a day to day basis alone and must have a)a reason for existing and clear goals and b) a strategic idea of how to achieve its aims.
- Have good communication channels between your leadership team and your employees
From the start, make sure that your leadership team, be it managers, supervisors aor coaches, is communicating effectively any organisational changes happening to employees and answers all their concerns — employees like to know the ‘why’ behind decisions, as well as the ‘what’ especially in high-growth start-ups where change is often part of the DNA. It is okay to pivot or change course as long as employees can see the reasoning behind it. This cultural openness can be the difference between a culturally aligned workforce and an isolated one. It is also vital to place brand and cultural goals alongside business ones.
Equally, your leadership team must make itself approachable to your employees when employees want you to provide them with feedback or raise issues regarding processes, customer complaints about products and/or services etc. Your employees are your brand advocates and are the first point of contact with customers, so do not dismiss their value.
- Praise your employees
Although you may need at times to provide performance reviews related to negative results, this doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t appreciate your employees’ work. Pay attention not to come across as too negative and try instead to encourage your employees by helping them reach their career goals and challenge them to go the extra mile. You can work with them to draw a plan to help them grow within the organisation and give them the tools to do so. This will not only increase their performances and motivation for their job but also retain them in your company. Keep in mind that unhappy employees are more likely to quit than stay and can seriously affect your business morally and economically as well as damaging your brand. A single unmotivated employee, especially in small and high-impact start-up teams can soon turn into an epedemic so it is wise to meet potential issues quickly and openly.
Where does your brand fit into your company culture?
Your company culture is a key component of your entire brand reputation and your internal culture, from your tone of voice to key visual assets are also relevant parts of your external brand structure — even if it is not immediately apparent.
Your company is a living structure. It grows, changes, and responds to outside factors and inside strategic decisions. That’s why you need to think about your company culture and core values as part of your whole brand’s DNA. To make your brand stand out and generate more sales as result, start thinking about your brand’s DNA and how this impacts your entire organisation.
To recap here is what you need to get started:
- Create your company’s identity
Think about how you want your employees, clients, stakeholders and influencers to perceive you. For that, reflect on your core values. Values can be either skill- and result orientated or softer personal skills. Having values allows you to consistently adapt to changes and keep your company moving. They can be used to evaluate your company culture, in order to ensure that your team is aligned with the company mission. Remember, you aren’t just building a company but you are building a brand too. Before you get started, you may look towards large and successful brands for inspiration to see what made them so successful such as Nike.
NIKE MAKES YOU FEEL MOTIVATED
Nike is not just a sportswear company, but it’s also the symbol of motivation, strength and fitness. Nike provides more than just running shoes — it provides motivation and inspiration. You just need to check their Instagram profile to feel it and see the passion and values that arise from its brand and brand culture. By having clear values and meaning to your own brand (whether personal, company or both) you can begin to evoke more meaning in what you do and do much more than selling mere products and services.
Here are few ideas to help you build your values before focusing on your mission and vision statements. It can also help to write a list of the values which you want your brand to be known for.
Collaboration/team work Excellence
Learning culture (training) Career Growth (promotions, moves)
Cutting edge technology Excellence
What you want your brand to be known for and how your company operates from a cultural perspective should all be a part of your initial considerations when growing a business. They cannot be an afterthought because culture will help to keep your team together when the going gets tough and give founders, stakeholders and decision makers a directional touch point for making tough decisions in the future.
- Create a positive working environment
It is important to build a culture of positivism. For, that you need to give sufficient breaks, organise social activities and offer useful perks (health care plan, maternity plan, holiday leave, performance bonuses…) that instil a collaborative atmosphere within your company. Do remember however that perks do not equate to culture and, first and foremost, creating an open and positive environment is key to ensuring the right kind of work culture to succeed. The ping-pong table can come after if need be but build the positive atmosphere to allow your cultural values to thrive.
- Manage change and make your company culture evolve with time
- Look for internal company processes or communication flaws to see what needs to be changed when there is an increasing amount of dissatisfaction or lack of performance. If regular sources of friction arise because of processes or organisational weaknesses, it may be the time to take stock and change these, aligning them closer to brand culture in the process.
- Understand what needs to be changed to increase your service or product value in the eyes of employees, customers and stakeholders. If your employees aren’t convinced about it or about the importance of their work, this will negatively affect the service they deliver to your customers.
- Start implementing change by finding influencers to represent your cause. Make sure you communicate regularly the reasons why you are making these changes and what changes your personnel will have to get used to. People will be more willing to accept changes when they have a clear understanding of what is happening. Never forget to articulate the ‘why’ behind business decisions and ensure that they match up to your brand standards, rules and values.
- What do your customers think about you?
You must create values that will be followed through on a daily basis in everything the company does and truly believe in them. Empty values are detrimental to the growth and success of your brand. For that purpose, start asking yourself these two questions:
- What do your customers want to accomplish with your product/service? Why do they choose your product/service instead of someone else’s?
- How does your brand help them achieve it?
In other terms, you must know what value proposition you have that will make consumers become your customers and buy from you.
- Your product or service must have a distinct value
The value of your product or service shouldn’t be linked to features. If your product has lots of features but the intrinsic value isn’t clear to your customers, you won’t be able to sell your product or service. You need to do a proper research to find out what your customers are looking for in your product or service. Remember that people buy much, much more than features when they commit to a service or a product.
- Keep it simple
Keep a clean, simple design as well as clear and consistent branding message, so that your product or service is easily understood by your target customers. Make sure that your marketing teams are linking up with your front-line customer support team to get their feedback so that they can create relevant marketing strategies and that your sales team sell the story, not the service or product.
A rejuvenated Apple succeeded in this area by creating a clear, simple, intuitive design and communicating clearly about their products’ unique characteristics from the very start. Don’t allow your message to become confused or try to say too much at once. Keeping your brand values simple and articulating this in your marketing and communication will allow you to build a stronger brand.
- Provide a good and timely customer service
You do not only need to take onboard your employees’ feedback but also listen to your customers’ complaints and suggestions. Make sure as well that you have a good time coverage for customer support, in particular, if your company is exporting abroad. Think about the different time zones and ensure that you have enough employees working in different shifts to cover the times when customers are the most likely to get in touch. (Drift is a great tool for this)
Plan carefully the communication channels you will use to reply to customers, be it emails, chat, phone, social media and make sure to reply within a specifically agreed upon service level. If customers are being left without answers for too long, they will spread the news to their friends and you may lose customers that way and therefore brand reputation. If you commit to replying within 5 mins, stick to it, otherwise don’t make those promises.
Company culture is not so much like a two-way street but a complex motorway junction system with no one dominant path.
Remember to keep a consistent, clear communication about what you expect from your employees and what they should expect from you. Keep your company human by showing that you care about your employees. Your message will have to be clear to them before you can deliver it to your customers. Make sure your message appears genuine and simple to everyone both internally and externally and you will be on the right path to success. And when you do deliver it to your customers, stay authentic and true to your core values because they will call you out if you diverge from the values you have set — Just ask United Airlines!
Ultimately, the direction you take for your company is your own and whether you stay true to one path or undertake multiple pivots along the way is largely dependent on business factors which are often out of your control. Your brand and your company culture, however, aren’t and should become an integral part of your company in order to develop a strong and deep relationship with employees and customers alike.
Being authentic to those brand values will help to develop the right culture which reflects and protects those values and ensures you will be able to build a strong brand and a strong business at the same time.