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What Is Your Company Culture?

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Melissa KnowlesMelissa Knowles

Culture is something we talk about quite frequently here at GYM HQ. When we founded the company, it was very important to us that we always remain a place our employees looked forward to working, a place where they felt appreciated, supported and invested in. We wanted them to see our vision and care about the mission we were on as much as we did. Over the last several years, as our client portfolio has expanded, we've seen our team grow from five to 40 (with new team members being added monthly)! The growth has been exciting and challenging.

But, it's brought with it all the standard pain points growing businesses face: thinking through systems, upgrading tech and honing in strategy. One that caught us a bit off-guard, though, was the need to actively focus on our culture. When you have a small team, it's easy to ensure everyone is on the same page, understands where you're headed and feels like an integral part of the mission. When you grow, that message can get muffled, diluted or lost completely! It takes a clear and ongoing effort to shape your culture. In the absence of any meaningful or focused discussion on culture, mission or core values, an unintended culture will install itself.

So, how does a company go about working on its culture? First, you have to truly believe that working on culture is an important endeavor. It must come from a place of authenticity and an understanding that change can happen and is important. Once you've cleared the thought hurdle, get to work! Sometimes, the hardest part is just getting started. Below are a few key steps to help you through the process:

Who are we right now? Start with an audit of where your organization currently stands. What culture has developed organically? An easy way to do this is to simply ask your staff! Take time to ask them leading questions about who they are, what their career objectives are and how they're fitting into their role with your company. Starting the conversation with them as the focus makes it much easier to transition into questions about their perceptions of the company's mission, work environment and vision. Ask about the business's current strengths and weaknesses. What are you as a leadership team doing well, and where do you need work? You'll walk away from this exercise with plenty of insights for not only your culture project but several process improvement projects.

What do we want to be? If you could snap your fingers and have the perfect culture, what would it be? Culture is like a personality. It is made up of the values, beliefs, underlying assumptions, attitudes and behaviors shared by a group of people. If you take the pure dictionary definition, culture is "the manifestation of human intellectual achievement regarded collectively." It's the culmination of all your team's effort boiled down to its essence.

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