Starting a business for the first time isn’t easy. In fact, it’ll likely be one of the most challenging experiences of any new entrepreneur’s life! From market research and business plans to funding, permits and licensing, there are so many items to strategically consider, it’s not uncommon for “softer” aspects like culture, values, and inclusion to fall far down the list. This is especially true when you’re small. It can’t make that much of a difference with just a couple of people and you can always get to it later, right? Read on to find out why this thinking is wrong.
It’s Time to Put Inclusion 1st.
The culture you create starts from day one, with your leadership and communication style, with how you connect with and treat every person who comes into contact with your business, both internal and external to your company. Through how you think, speak, and act, you’re already building a foundation for inclusiveness OR exclusiveness (likely a mix of both). So why not start setting the groundwork needed for the inclusive culture you’ll need to attract and KEEP top talent and cultivate an environment where your team, no matter the size, can create success and thrive while doing it?
We already know that inclusion inspires:
- New Ideas
- Problem solving
There are SO many studies and stats that talk about the benefits of inclusion for companies, teams, boards, financials and more. Go ahead and Google it if you need to be convinced, studies from Deloitte, Catalyst, and the NeuroLeadership Institute are some of my personal favorites.
Any one of the items from the list above would no doubt be valuable to start creating now, with a plan to foster even more as you grow. So how do you start building inclusive practices, right now?
If you want to put inclusion first and build it into the foundation of your business, there are 3 questions you need to ask yourself and then do your due diligence to answer thoughtfully and intentionally for your unique business and the goals you’ve created.
Question #1: How can I run my business inclusively?
This is all about the internal workings of your business, this is your foundation. Consider how to inclusively design your businesses:
- Internal & External Communication Strategies
- Leadership Strategy
- Mission, Vision, & Values
A great place to start is to explore what it means to be inclusive in your unique industry, in the type of business you’re in. How do you show up as an inclusive business, leader, manager, and employee? If you get stuck it can help to think about the opposite, what it would look like if you were exclusive and what steps can you take to avoid this. Capture these intentions and keep them front and center in your daily work.
Question #2: How can I create Inclusive products or services?
This is all about what you’re creating for the world and how you’re interfacing with your ecosystem. Consider how to inclusively approach:
- Customer Research
- Product Development
- Branding & Marketing
- External Communication
- Embodying your Mission, Vision, & Values
- Corporate Social Responsibility
When thinking about inclusive design, ask yourself how people of different races, genders, physical abilities, or socioeconomic statuses use or interact with your products or services. Where are experiences the same across user groups and where do they differ? Hit up “inclusive product design” or “inclusive service design” on Google to see how this approach has positively impacted the end product for many well established brands in your sector.
Question #3: How can I design my business to be inclusive for:
- Internal Partners
- External Partners
- Communities we serve
Every touch point with any stakeholder of your company is an opportunity to make them feel included or excluded. This is why inclusion needs to be foundational and built in to not only what you create but how you create it. The more you use this muscle the more natural and automatic it will become!
It’s worth it.
I can feel your mind slipping back to that long list of other strategic considerations, but let me assure you of one important thing: it’s worth the work. Afterall, you have to research, think about, wrestle with, and ultimately create all of these policies, processes, and procedures anyway. By doing so with an inclusive lens, your business will be situated to harness the many benefits of inclusion early on and you’ll save yourself the time of having to fix aspects of an exclusive culture (and the cascade of negative effects) later.
Choose to put inclusion first. Perfect your brand of inclusive leadership. Develop and embody inclusive company values from your first employee on up. Use an inclusive lens in everything you do. Your people and your growing, more successful business will thank you.