Corporate culture is the sum total of everything that has been and continues to be ongoing in an organisation.
Knowing your culture can clearly guide you and your employees to a better understanding of your goals, visions and approaches to increased productivity. Culture influences the way we think, what we do, how we work, and what is acceptable in the company environment.
There are three groups of attributes of a corporate culture that stand out:
Group 1: Beliefs, stories & experiences
When a new employee begins, what are the stories he is told about the organisation? About the people? About past events? Who are the company heroes and what have they accomplished that garnered them such a positive reputation that it deserves to be respected? More importantly, can these behaviours be emulated by others?
Group 2: Goals, norms & history
“If you don’t know where you are going, you will probably end up somewhere else!” Anecdotal surveys show that the overwhelming majority of employees are clueless about their overall company goals. While it’s true that most know they should do a good job, many are unclear about the specifics and the nuances.
To help the employee better understand the culture, the entrepreneur and the employees all need to understand specifically where the organisation is going, how it will get there, by when, and with what degree of quality and success. Without this knowledge, the company is doomed to be an under performer or possibly to fail.
Norms define and describe what is acceptable: “the way things are done around here” from the simple to the complex. The former may include how early you have your staff come to work in the morning or how late they remain past 5pm.
The complex may involve whether to work as a highly productive individual or to work together as an accomplished team (collaboratively or competitively). Not knowing the difference can easily create problems for the individual and the work unit
History, like experience, provides a basis for behaviour. It helps employees distinguish between what has been tried and succeeded and those things that were attempted but failed; it allows workers to move beyond past failures through to innovation and achievement.
History can serve as a foundation or jumping off point to launch into new ventures or new procedures and policies. It helps the innovator deal with complainers who say, “We already tried that.” Supported by history, the employee can point out how this newest attempt will differ from and alter the past.
Group 3: Symbols, values & rituals
Symbols are icons or signs that tell visitors and employees something about the organisation. Nameplates and logos on doors, windows and stationery tell people something about the company. These symbols can be as concrete as a name and as abstract as cleanliness, high tech, or quality.
Something as simple as names on cubicles says that even though we may be cubby-holed, the company believes that people are important. A sparkling floor says that the company takes pride in its appearance and providing a clean environment for all workers.
One reason many people choose to work in an organisation is because of its values: honesty, pride, concern for others, independence, positive reinforcement for a job well done or well begun. These values may be unwritten but, nevertheless, are still potent qualities that exist to inform employees about the company, especially when a clash of values occurs.
Is it more valuable to complete one polished product or many that are in great shape but dull in appearance? The confusion can lead to diminished performance.
Rituals are traditions or ceremonies that occur on a regular basis. Quite often, organisations miss opportunities to use rituals to improve morale. Honouring birthdays, anniversaries, successes, or positive announcements all serve as occasions for the company to say, “We value you and we want to acknowledge you and your accomplishments.”
These events can be acknowledged with lunches, cakes, coffee or cards. There are many low-cost methods of telling employees how important they are. The results can be very powerful.
By reviewing corporate culture, an empowering entrepreneur can assess the current status of an organisation with an eye to modifying or eliminating the parts that are dysfunctional or impractical, then replacing them with qualities that will improve your working environment, productivity, and employee satisfaction. Then your culture will be positive, too.
6 Timeless Strategies That Drive Successful Entrepreneurship
Adhere to these key principles to build a high-growth company amid changing circumstances.
In today’s ever changing business climate, an entrepreneur can easily become overwhelmed. It’s vital, though, to stay focused on your goals for the company.
Even with a firm strategy in place, every entrepreneur should do these six things to clear a path to success:
1Study the competition
As an entrepreneur, you need to know who your competitors are. You also should understand the rival product or service that is being offering.
This knowledge will help you better market your product or service to stand out, perhaps even using your competition’s weaknesses to your advantage.
2Conserve cash no matter how good business is
Frankly put, live as cheaply as possible.
Entrepreneurs should be as conservative with their money as possible to be able to deal with any rough patch that arises. Conserving several months’ worth of operating expenses in the bank will help you survive most unforeseen circumstances.
3Research new products and services
Understand emerging products or services on the horizon that could improve your company’s operations.
Do your homework.
- Are you taking advantage of all technology has to offer?
- Is there an app that could help you manage your time more efficiently or a service that lets you delegate ordinary tasks to free up more time for priority projects?
4Don’t tackle huge markets at first
Avoid expanding into large markets in the initial stages. Thinking “if we can capture just 1 percent of China” could turn into a mistake. Niche marketing can be extremely cost effective if you keep three things in mind: Meet the market’s unique needs by offering something new and compelling. Speak the market’s language and understand its hot buttons.
Your language should be in synch with that niche even for the minor aspects of a marketing campaign like the company’s slogan.
5Listen to customer feedback and adapt
Salespeople know the adage “always be closing,” referred to by the acronym ABC. Entrepreneurs have an acronym, too: Always be adapting, or ABA.
But entrepreneurs can evolve their business only when they’re listening to customer feedback. It may not mean much if one customer doesn’t like your product but if this is true for many of them and they’re requesting another feature, listen and be ready to adapt.
Whether you’re adapting your marketing plan, simplifying a product or responding to new trends, pay attention to customer feedback. Be all ears.
6Respond to change
In business change is inevitable and those capable of responding are flexible and versatile.
An entrepreneur must be prepared to accept change and adapt business operations accordingly. Be flexible. If a shift in your product or service is warranted, don’t be left behind. Realize from the start that where you are is likely not to be where you’ll end up. A lack of adaptability can result in loss in customers, profits and even business failure.
As an entrepreneur, understand that the world is evolving rapidly. Even a company founded a year ago could change the world today.
Yes, the world customarily commends big players like Bill Gates and Oprah Winfrey. Yet there’s room for everyone in the game. Entrepreneurship in emerging markets could very well be a major factor in the return of a hearty global economy. Why couldn’t you be a part of that change?
This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.
Yellowwood Future Architects Are Helping Their Clients Understand The New Future
The world is changing. And young, digitally-savvy consumers are becoming an increasingly large and powerful segment. So how should your business adapt to the changing face of the consumer landscape?
- Player: David Blyth
- Position: CEO
- Company: Yellowwood Future Architects
- Established: 1997
- What they do: Yellowwood is a South African marketing strategy consultancy. It helps clients find top line growth for their businesses by offering strategic focus and insight into customers.
- Visit: www.ywood.co.za
Yellowwood Future Architects specialises in helping its clients understand their customers. It is a crucial task, since no organisation can survive long-term if if doesn’t have a deep understanding of the people who buy its products and services.
But even companies that pay great attention to their customers can find themselves struggling to understand the mindset of the modern consumer. Why is that? Well, the consumer landscape is changing drastically, especially in Africa.
“Globally, the youth market is the largest the world has ever seen, and Africa has the majority of these young people. According to the latest census figures, South Africa’s 15 to 34-year-olds total in the region of 19,5 million, or 37,6% of the total population of 51,7 million. By comparison, South Africa’s Generation Xers (the 37 to 56-year-olds) number under 12 million. With direct youth spend in South Africa sitting at a hefty R130 billion per annum, marketers need to sit up and take notice of the youth market. “They are not just ‘the future’ as we are often told — they are ’the now’,” says Yellowwood CEO David Blyth.
This means that no company can afford to ignore the youth market. As Blyth says, they are having a profound effect on the economy already, and this influence will only grow as they age.
So what does this new generation look like? What are their wants and needs? And what do they expect of the brands and companies they interact with?
They want relevant marketing
The days when consumers could be seen as passive receivers of marketing materials are over. Young consumers expect the right information at the right time. They don’t want to be spammed with information that’s not relevant to them, but they do want information to be instantly available when necessary.
They have a lot of disposable income
Young consumers have a surprising amount of disposable income. How so? They live with their parents longer than previous generations did, and they often rent instead of buy.
“We are seeing a shift in how young people spend their money. Many of them aren’t paying a bond or monthly car instalments, which gives them more disposable income,” says Blyth. “Depending on your industry, this can have a profound effect on your business.”
They demand authenticity
“Don’t try to be cool,” says Blyth. “Young consumers want brands to be real — they don’t want to be fed an inauthentic marketing line.” According to Blyth, they want to be approached on equal terms.
They want value
“Brands are important,” says Blyth. “But we are also seeing that young consumers want value. Brand alone isn’t enough. There is simply too much choice out there these days. Combine this with an uncertain economy, and a unique value offering becomes critical.”
They want dialogue
As mentioned earlier, young consumers aren’t willing to be the passive recipients of marketing material. These days, engagement is key.
“Thanks to platforms like Twitter and Instagram, consumers have a loud voice,” says Blyth. “And they aren’t afraid to use it. They will let you know if they’re unhappy, and they will expect you to respond. They want two-way conversation.”
They are socially conscious
“Young consumers are very socially conscious. They care about social issues and the environment. So it goes without saying that they expect companies and brands to care about these things as well,” says Blyth.
They are complicated
Perhaps the defining characteristic of the youth market is its inability (and unwillingness) to be pigeonholed and broadly defined. Young consumers are incredibly complex in their wants, needs and demands.
They can appear self-centred and very focused on instant gratification, but research has also shown that they are incredibly concerned about the future, and very conscious of social and environmental issues.
What this means is that the days of approaching marketing in a linear way are over. The world is becoming more complex, consumers are becoming more demanding, and companies have no choice but to keep up.
Never assume that you know your customer. Customer research should be an ongoing activity. The world is changing quickly, and companies need to keep up. They need to evolve at the same speed as their consumers.
Developing Your Business’s Ethics Policy
It’s not enough to have a vision statement and values; you have to integrate them into your company’s culture.
Definition: Business ethics is the study of proper business policies and practices regarding potentially controversial issues, such as corporate governance, insider trading, bribery, discrimination, corporate social responsibility and fiduciary responsibilities. – Investopedia
In training values and ethics, many “what if” scenarios should be developed so that employees can learn to react to possibilities.
Once you have defined what’s acceptable and what is not, plan how the organisation will respond to employees who do the right thing. For example, if someone makes a business decision that is consistent with organisational ethics, but causes the company to lose business, show that person as a positive example.
Next, examine negative situations. Most lying in organisations isn’t for personal gain but to avoid embarrassing consequences.
If you frequently take success for granted and consistently punish failure, you can count on people changing the numbers to look better than they should, blaming others for their mistakes or hiding errors.
In summary, you should:
- Specifically define values and ethics as they relate to suppliers, customers and employees.
- Train employees using realistic examples relating to your own business.
- Examine how you respond to success and failure. within your organisation.
- Reinforce all who make an improvement, not just a select few.
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