7 Ways to Build a Strong Company Culture for Your Small Business

Did you ever walk into a business where you just knew the company culture was thriving? People were happy, excited and productive. Communication was clearly taking place, and there wasn’t a mopey face in the building. You were probably thinking “my company needs that!”

Building company culture is no small feat. Changing it can be next-to-impossible. You need a good plan to set things on the right track from day one. But what exactly is company culture? And how can you influence it without coming off as a demagogue? Here are a few tips from the top.

1. Focus on Communication

Company’s fail at communication. More than anything, this is the difference between a productive, positive company culture with a minimum workplace negativity, and a soulless sweatshop of cubicles where negativity thrives.

Your company doesn’t have to be the latter. Part of effective communication is providing the right tools, and that’s probably the easy part. Make sure that people have equipment that works, take advantage of technology like Slack, company intranets and yes even email, but none of this matters if people aren’t comfortable communicating.

2. Build Relationships Improves Company Culture

These might come in the form of teambuilding activities, breakroom banter or even social events. It’s important that smaller teams get the chance to form internal bonds, and that on occasion, you get the whole office together in an environment where they don’t feel constrained by “work appropriate” behavior.

When you can achieve this dynamic, people come out of their shells and begin to see their colleagues as humans. They form connections that bridge organizational units and learn to identify with people they don’t work with every day. That instills confidence in the organization and allows more efficient work when you’re back on the clock.

3. Understand Your Values

What kind of company do you want to run? Perhaps you’ve got a lofty-sounding mission statement, but if you can’t put into words the values that your company should embody, you don’t know what type of culture you’re trying to build.

Some of the things you might want to encourage at your company include acceptance of others, rewards for hard work and perseverance in the face of a challenge. Maybe you would like to make community involvement a consistent theme. The point is, you can’t incorporate these things into any messaging to employees until you know what they are.

Have a meeting with key stakeholders, establish your company values and develop a plan to make your employees aware of them. Be prepared to stand up for them too.

4. Stoke Them Out!

Of course, employees love perks and free stuff, but that just serves to distract them and reduce productivity, right? Wrong.

Part of building a positive culture comes from instilling a sense of ownership in your employees. You want them to love the place they work and take pride in the work they do. That’s much easier when they can look forward to free snacks in the office, a wellness program that covers their gym membership or the occasional team outing to a nice restaurant.

The tech industry has made this a hallmark, with huge companies like Google going to incredible lengths — they’ve got slides between floors for crying out loud!

You might not be able to do everything that a fortune 500 company can, but look for ways to improve your employees’ quality of life when they’re in the office. Happier employees are more productive.

5. Listen to Feedback

If you’re not sure what your employees want to shape company culture, why not ask them? Many veterans of the corporate world will tell you that in years of loyal service, they never once got the chance to meet with an executive team member. When employees aren’t heard, they feel undervalued, and that can be the kiss of death for your company culture.

Finding out what’s on people’s minds is easy. You don’t need to hold a conference or spend long hours meeting with individual employees. Start with something simple like a survey, and then address the trends that you see in follow-up communications.

6. Recognize Exceptional Performance

When an employee does something extraordinary, chances are that it’s known to them and maybe a few close colleagues. If you want your employees to know they’re appreciated, make a big deal of these things.

There can be different levels of recognition. For example, there should be a way for employees to recognize one-another over company intranet. Many companies have an employee-of-the-quarter program to recognize people who’ve put in lots of work on a major project, or who have accomplished something meaningful for the entire company.

Loyalty is important too, so consider a way to recognize employees who’ve been with the company for many years. All that experience can leave overnight. You can offer paid time off, a travel bonus or a gift card to a favorite restaurant. These things might seem small to the company, but they make a difference to your employees.

7. Hire Carefully

Remember that bringing in the wrong people can ruin all of your efforts to create this communicative, productive workplace. It’s critical to know that the people you’re hiring will feel at home, that their peers will welcome them and that they intend to stick around and continue what you’ve started.


Every business is different, and once you get the ball rolling, it’s likely that opportunities unique to your business will present themselves. Make decisions with your team in mind, keep the communication levels up and you will set your company up for success with a culture that helps everyone get more done and feel good doing it.

Nathan Sykes
He is a business and tech writer from Pittsburgh, PA. When he's not thinking about IoT and cloud computing you can find him watching the Pittsburgh Penguins. Nathan enjoys writing about the latest in technology and business and is the founder of Finding an Outlet. Follow him on Twitter @nathansykestech.
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