How Small Companies can Build and Maintain Company Culture

Guest Post: Kari Beaulieu | Marketing Manager, Appfluence

Happy creative business team using tablet in meeting at office

When most of us think of “company culture”, the image that pops into our heads is that of a thriving company campus with a stocked cafeteria, nap pods, employees biking from one end to the other. For most companies, though, this kind of set-up is out of reach.

In one 2012 report by Deloitte, they revealed that 88% of employees and 94% of executives believed that workplace culture was important to business success. So, how can all teams, not only large companies, ensure that they are building a distinct company culture?

At my company, Appfluence, we have a team of 6 in California, over a dozen engineers working out of Spain, and a remote founder in Hong Kong. What’s more, we recently added a few remote interns to our team. We believe that company culture is not something that is reserved for large companies.

Below, check out five of our tips on how small companies and remote teams can build company culture:

  1. Establish your values

The benefit of having a smaller team is that it’s easier to get everyone in a room together and come to a consensus. Establishing your company values early on will help you have a baseline to refer back to as you move forward. Using certain values as a point of reference will help guide your decisions as your company grows.

This will also help in the hiring process, as it will become easier to identify what traits you value most in new hires.

  1. Hire smart

When you have a small team of 5 or 6, bringing someone onto the team who doesn’t fit your company culture can make a much larger difference than the same situation in a team of 50, or 200. Based on your company values, put together a list of traits that you value most in new hires, and make sure the questions you ask in your application will help applicants demonstrate those traits.

For example, one of our company values at Appfluence is outstanding customer service. When we’re hiring customer success reps, we ask that they make a screencast explaining how to complete a simple task. We look for personable voices and thorough yet concise explanation. More often than not, their charisma and success on this simple task is a great indicator of whether or not they’ll do well in a customer-facing role.

Further, the more focused you are when hiring early-stage employees, the easier it becomes to continue hiring new team members who fit that mold.

  1. Touch base frequently

We have one, routine skype meeting every Monday evening. The full California team, which includes two of our founders, touches base with our remote founder in Hong Kong. This allows us to keep him up-to-date on what we’ve been collaboration on over the week. This inclusion ensures that our connection stays strong, even from afar.

What’s more, we encourage inter-team collaboration. Our designer regularly sets up independent skype meetings with the Spanish engineers, and our remotes interns collaborate with one another independent of our weekly meetings.

  1. Get together physically

If you work in a remote team like we do, aim to gather at least once a year. This provides an opportunity to touch base, make sure values are still aligned, and keep camaraderie alive. This meeting frequency also ensures that newer team members get an opportunity to get to know upper-level executives that they may not interact with on a daily basis.

In our California office, we go to lunch as a team almost every day. This extra hour of interaction serves two purposes. Firstly, it helps us stay more connected, not only professionally, but personally. Secondly, this organic conversation often leads to quicker decision-making and innovation. Without our computers or other distractions in front of us, we can focus completely on problem-solving and innovation.

  1. Consider the costs and benefits

It’s no secret that small companies can be tight on resources. As such, these resources must be carefully allocated to ensure the highest payoff possible. And while “company culture” is not something that can be measured in concrete numbers, this doesn’t mean it isn’t a worthy area to invest time, or money, if necessary.

Consider the following: purchasing a nice coffee maker for the office may incentivize team members to arrive early to brew a cup of joe, which lays a perfect ground for early-morning chats about new ideas. A walk around the local park on a Thursday evening can rejuvenate a small team and result in heightened productivity upon return to the office.

When it comes to building and maintaining company culture in a small team, the first step is always coming to a consensus regarding which values are the most important to the business. Following this decision, maintaining your unique culture becomes a series of small choices that promote your values.

While the impact of these choices may not be directly measurable, company culture is an invaluable part of any small business. It helps employees stay engaged and fosters a sense of camaraderie that can lead to unexpected innovations as a result of better teamwork.

Try sitting down with your team to identify your core values.



KariBeaulieuThis is a guest post from Kari Beaulieu of Appfluence. Appfluence is the creator of the prioritization and delegation tool, Priority Matrix, which is built to help teams work more efficiently through increased visibility and smooth communication of priorities.

When Kari isn’t reading up on the latest in team productivity, she’s writing about it on her company’s blog, Productivity 101.

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