by Zvi Band, founder and CEO of Contactually
It’s something of a startup cliché: a bunch of 20-somethings in hoodies huddled around the built-in beer tap in their office, eating pizza while they take turns playing pingpong. It’s the culture of startups, and it’s what you imagine when you daydream about working at Facebook.
But while a culture of pingpong, beer, and pizza sounds really appealing, it’s not enough. Your company’s culture may be its heart and soul, but it’s certainly not its brain. And to keep your workers happy and your company viable in the long run, you’re going to need something more.
Culture, after all, is inward. It’s how your company operates internally, but it has no allegiance to the core of your business: making money and growing at a steady pace. What’s more, culture can’t be “tracked” — that’s what KPIs are for. Instead, focus on these three traits to help your small business blossom:
1. The Bottom Line.
Chances are you already concentrate on your bottom line quite a bit. Making ends meet and keeping the lights on are a huge part of the startup game. They might even be the reason you’re in the game to begin with.
The best way to get your company laser-focused on the bottom line, though, is to have a clear, actionable metric for your entire company and ensure everyone and everything works in alignment with it.
Want to double your sales? Striving to acquire 500 more leads than last year? Make sure everyone on your team is aware of that and pushes to accomplish it each day, bit by bit. It’s not a very effective goal if it lives exclusively in your head.
2. Planning Ahead.
Good leaders rush ahead, going headlong into battle despite the consequences. Great leaders, on the other hand, wait a bit, do the math, and then make a strategic leap.
Even if it’s just you initially, get in the routine of planning out as much of your day — and the following months — as you can. Set aside time to review metrics, evaluate clientele, or whittle down precise goals for the future. When you establish positive, efficient rhythms and habits, the journey to achieve your goals doesn’t seem as daunting.
On that note, setting up a goal and planning system that helps you and your employees break down high-level tasks into weekly to-do lists can save you time and stress.
3. Long-Term Thinking.
Most people enjoy reflecting on their days by taking walks after dinner, talking with their partners, or simply sitting in silence for a bit. When you do the same with your business, you’ll see a dramatic change.
I try to pencil in an hour or two each week for clear-thinking time and allow myself to work undistracted. This helps me break free of the day-to-day processes and ponder the future of my company. I don’t think about what’s going on now; I think about the years to come, which gives the actions I do today perspective and a deeper foundational meaning.
Your employees are there to work for you, so they’re probably not as concerned with the big picture of the company — assuming things are healthy, that is. But by tying compensation to achieving predetermined goals, you’re giving them the opportunity to think about their actions and how they influence the company in the long term.
If you think of your company as a ship, the culture is the engine. It’s what keeps your team strong and powers the ship.But without a roadmap, what’s to keep the ship from simply going in circles? Without metrics, planning, and long-term thinking, how do you know that you’re going fast enough? And without the “captain” taking time to really think long-term, your whole team could be lost at sea.
Once you focus on these three traits, however, you’ll be able to use them to set goalposts of where you need to be as a company. Then, it’s up to your team to execute them — which is exactly where your culture comes into play.
Zvi Band is the founder and CEO of Contactually, a relationship-marketing platform that maximizes value and drives greater ROI from personal and professional networks. Zvi frequently participates in thought leadership panels at Tech Cocktail, WordPress DC, DC PHP, and DCRUG events. He loves solving new problems and building new products and services.