When we watch travel programmes on the television or perhaps are lucky enough to visit some of those far off places ourselves, we sometimes marvel and occasionally chuckle at the strange customs that different nations, regions or tribes have, often forgetting that some of our own customs are just as strange to other people as theirs are to us. 

Many of you reading this will have taken that magical step from working on your own (self-employed) to taking on your first member of staff. At that point you are effectively creating a new tribe. And tribes need customs. Not the way you decorate the Christmas tree but how the business is operated; its attitude to customers, to technology, to how its processes work and to how people treat each other.

Initially, the customs will all be how you do things but perhaps that first employee will start introducing some new ways of doing things using things they learnt on their previous jobs or study. This is a key step for you. Do you resist all attempts to change the business or simply let them get on with it?

Those changes may be good but they might not be. Will you keep a close enough eye on things to identify those changes which are not good; maybe bad habits or sloppiness brought into your organisation? Will you be wise enough to identify things that might be good elsewhere but do not fit the culture of your organisation and what it is trying to achieve? Will you be patient enough to explain to them why some of their new ideas are not right for your company? Will you be open minded enough to absorb the new ideas they bring?

And then if you grow you will take on more new people and the organisation will evolve more. There are lots of dangers but also lots of opportunities. A client we worked with for many years allowed their first employee to take on all the new staff and train them. Effectively, it became her company with her values. This worked when the business was a handful of employees but as it got bigger her habits (and determination to hang on to her power at all costs) became the issue that held the company back. A painful parting involving lots of legal costs was the way it all ended

 

Who are you?

When you take on someone new, you’re asking people to join you to become, “one of us.” But that means you need to be really clear who ‘us’ is; what you stand for and what it means to be one of you.

All these little ways of behaving, processes and practices add up to what is collectively your “culture”.

At A4G we make our culture clear at the interview stage. Most people will say the things they think you want to hear at an interview and of course are unlikely to challenge your way of thinking in an interview. But if they buy into what you tell them at the interview then they will hopefully start work on day one in the right place. And if they don’t buy into it, they will hopefully turn your job offer down.

And then everything will be fine won’t it? Well maybe for the first week perhaps! After that, you better make sure that you not only say the right things but that you support them by your actions as well. As soon as your team see you behaving in a different way to how you say it should be, then they will realise that your culture is slightly different to how it was presented to them. And they will adapt accordingly.

 

Hiding from change

Of course, you can perfect your business model and everything can be going swimmingly except for the fact that the world is constantly changing. If you’re lucky this might not impact on you for a long time but it will in the end. Talk to a London cabbie about the impact of Uber and start thinking about what the next “Uber” in your industry might be.

Human nature causes most people to hide from change. To hide from the responsibility to make those changes and to hide from the confrontation that might be required with people in your organisation who are unwilling to change. But if you aren’t prepared to do it, then who else will?

 

A culture of change

At A4G, we have a culture of change. We are constantly trying to improve our processes, to make them more customer friendly, to use technology in its most profitable way.

And we want to help our clients to change when they need to. This might take the form of quarterly meetings assessing the impact of changes and growth. It could be annual or twice yearly strategic meetings at which the “big picture” is discussed and strategies for how to achieve it are considered. For clients of our sister company A4G Growth LLP it might be bringing in your whole team for a staff engagement session.

Or it could simply be by introducing you to new software which can revolutionise your ways of operating or simply be by showing you the best practices that we have identified from working with thousands of businesses.

Whatever it means to be “one of you”, A4G can help you achieve your goals.

 

Would you like to find out more about how A4G can help you make changes in your business and grow? Get in contact with us by calling 01474 853 856 or completing our Contact Form and one of us will give you a call back.


Read more of Malcolm’s “Thoughts of the Month”:

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