Building a Sticky Business Culture Using Five Key Checkpoints

Creating and Reinforcing the Culture You Want to Build

As a business owner striving to grow and improve as a leader, you recognize the importance of a strong business culture. However, many businesses struggle with maintaining their desired culture. The unique perspective I want to share today is that there are five key checkpoints you can use to create awareness and reinforce the culture you're trying to build.

By focusing on these checkpoints, you can ensure your business culture remains strong and aligned with your core values.

1. Establishing Core Values

Core values are the foundation of your business culture. These values should be clear, memorable, and actionable. Ideally, you should have three to five core values that guide behavior within your organization. Having too many can dilute their impact, while too few might not cover all essential aspects of your business ethos.

Your core values should be visible and constantly reinforced through various activities and communications. When core values are strong, they become "leader sourced and crowd enforced," meaning they are driven by leadership and upheld by everyone in the organization.

2. The Leadership Message

The leadership message is your 30,000-foot view of the business culture and vision. It combines where the business is heading and how you will achieve your goals through your core values. As a leader, it is your job to regularly communicate this message, ensuring it resonates and remains top of mind for everyone.

The leadership message can take many forms. It could be a document like "What It Means to Work Here," which details the values and their significance, or it could be a speech or a series of communications that consistently reinforce the core values and vision.

The key is to embed this message in every aspect of your business operations.

3. Integrating Values in the Hiring Process

The hiring process is a critical checkpoint for embedding your core values. Every interview and onboarding session should emphasize these values. You can even conduct a dedicated culture interview to assess alignment with your core values.

During onboarding, share your leadership message and make sure new hires understand what it means to work at your company. Discuss core values in behavioral terms and ensure they are integral to the expectations set for new employees.

4. Performance Reviews and Core Values

Performance reviews should include a thorough evaluation of how well employees embody the core values. Quarterly reviews can incorporate self-ratings, peer feedback, and manager evaluations.

Repeated failure to adhere to core values should be treated as seriously as performance issues. Consider implementing a quarterly core value development plan similar to a performance improvement plan. This ensures that all employees continuously strive to live up to the core values and understand their importance in daily activities.

5. The Culture Infusion Cycle

The culture infusion cycle is a system for making your core values permeate every level of your business. It involves a consistent cadence of activities that demonstrate, remind, and reinforce the values and culture.

Daily: Ensure core values are visible daily. Mention specific instances of someone living the core values during meetings.
Weekly: Conduct a core values recognition nomination. Allow team members to nominate each other for demonstrating core values. Share the compiled recognitions with the team weekly.
Monthly: Roll up the weekly recognitions into a monthly report and share it during monthly meetings.
Quarterly: Vote for a quarterly MVP based on the core value recognitions. Provide rewards like plaques or gift cards.
Annually: Host an annual core values awards event. Create a culture book that includes the year's recognitions, comments, and core value stories.

By maintaining these checkpoints, you move from merely stating your values to living them every day. This approach ensures continuity and reinforcement of the business culture, making it a tangible part of your operations.

Reinforcing Business Culture

Creating and maintaining a strong business culture requires ongoing effort and intentionality. By focusing on these five key checkpoints—core values, leadership message, hiring process, performance reviews, and the culture infusion cycle—you can build and reinforce a culture that aligns with your vision and values. Remember, it's crucial to set expectations, be consistent, and keep your values top of mind to prevent them from eroding.

These checkpoints will help you create awareness and reinforce the culture you're striving to build, addressing any business culture problems effectively. Let me know what you think and how you plan to implement these strategies in your business.

Additional Resources for Culture and Core Values

Nick Berry Round Headshot

Nick Berry is an accomplished entrepreneur and CEO, whose track record includes founding and leading numerous companies since 2002.

He is also a mentor and coach to other entrepreneurs and business owners who are looking for a trusted (and proven) advisor.  

Among peers, colleagues, staff, and clients, Nick has been referred to as both 'The Business Guy' as well as 'The Anti-Guru', due to his pragmatic approach and principled leadership.

He shares his insights and lessons learned, along with those of his expert guests,
on his podcast, 'The Business Owner's Journey'.