It’s great to learn something you didn’t know before.
Back in 2015 I completed the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses programme, North West. The programme was an investment to help entrepreneurs create jobs and economic opportunities. Over 20 days of study, the course covered all aspects of business growth, including finance, sales, marketing and exit strategy. The aim of the course was to write a business growth plan that would help our business achieve its objectives.
At the time, I was a Founder/Director at a digital marketing agency and the business was about 6 years old. It’s fair to say that at the start my business partners and I had no idea what we were doing but regardless, we were young and we were doing it for ourselves so we were loving work and finding our way.
We offered a broad range of digital marketing services to SMEs. We built a reputation for being a really solid local agency. We worked hard for our clients and charged a very reasonable price for the work we did. We also worked hard at improving the business, bringing more experienced and more diversely skilled staff into our team as the business matured. We totalled about 16 people at our biggest.
At the end of the course, I had to present my business plan to the rest of the cohort. After i’d finished my presentation, one of the course leaders asked me - “What business activity did you think was the most important before you did the course and what is most important now”. I really didn’t have to think long about my answer.
Before it was Sales.
Now it was Company Culture.
So what made me change my mind?
At the time I started the course, one of the biggest challenges we were having was attracting great talent to come and work for us. We had a good core of staff (about 6 or 7) but Manchester is not short of digital agencies and the competition to attract great people to advance the business was pretty fierce and was driving salaries and recruitment fees through the roof.
Building an awesome company culture was the answer to this and, as I discovered, many other things too.
Company culture runs through your business like DNA in a person. It’s what makes you unique. It incorporates things like your company vision, values, language, beliefs, behaviours and habits, but it’s so much more. You can’t decide exactly what the culture of your business is going to be (just like your own personality) but you can use things like your company vision, mission and values to steer it, just like you can use your own values to guide you personally.
Also, you cannot fake it. You can’t pretend to be something you’re not or you get found out pretty quickly. The founders of any SME business probably tend to set the tone for the company culture by the way they behave, the values they live by and the vision they have for their own business. However, once it gets past a certain point the company starts to outgrow their reach and suddenly the people they employ begin to have a much bigger influence on the culture, particularly as headcount grows. At this point, it becomes imperative that the culture becomes embedded in the business.
What I discovered (probably not a big shocker for some of you out there) was that creating an amazing company culture helped to attract much better people to come and work for us. Our staff became active promoters of our business, both internally and externally and our staff retention was incredible. But the even more positive effect was on our clients. We started to win bigger accounts that wanted to spend more with us and who bought into the skills and experience of the newer members of our team. They also became active promoters of our business too and so the sales job started to become easier.
Our company culture started to build and take on a life of its own because we had a more engaged team. The better clients and the better team went hand in hand. You can’t build a digital marketing agency with great clients and a crap team, nor can you keep a great team if you have crap clients. Building an engaged team and a great culture takes time, but it's totally possible if you spend the time listening to your co-founders and bringing your team into the conversation. Making sure they have input and their values are aligned with yours, as well as giving them a bloody good listening to goes a long way.
So that’s my Why. That’s why I'm here at Ten Space.
I want to help other businesses make a positive difference to their company culture. I want to help other businesses build a great team for the future. I want to help them grow into great businesses with exceptional leaders and exceptional workers that are all bought into the same vision, living by the same values and working to the same goals.
But I also want to build technology that helps make proper decisions based on real data. Too often, leaders make decisions based on their ‘gut instinct’. They also think that because they feel great about the way the business is going then everyone else does. This is often not the case and regular interactions with your people will help you get a better understanding of that.
If you don’t lay the right foundations then you’ll never build an engaged team and a great company culture. Whether you’re a digital marketing agency or any other type of business, that’s what we’re here for. Let us help give your people a voice. You might be surprised what comes back.