Have you ever had the experience of landing a great job in a company where you envisioned a long future, only to have things somehow not pan out? Could you put your finger on what went wrong? Maybe you didn’t click with the other employees. Or you couldn’t relate to the boss’s management style. Possibly it was just the general vibe of the place that never felt right to you. All of these things relate to the culture of a company – that intangible but crucial element of an organization. And though it may be hard to pinpoint what makes a good culture, we all know a bad one when we see it.

As a small business owner, it may seem like worrying about having a positive corporate culture should take a back seat to the many other responsibilities you have. But investing the energy to establish the right work environment can make your business more attractive to job candidates, improve employee productivity and affect overall staff retention – all of which influence your bottom line. So, how do you start?

Know what you want your culture to look like.

Think about the type of work environments that you’ve appreciated in the past. Is there a common thread? What characteristics are important to you to promote in your company? Collaboration? Creativity? Innovation? In what specific ways can you foster these values?

Hire employees with positive attitudes.

A superstar applicant is great – unless they bring a sour disposition with them. Consider not just whether a candidate can do the job, but how he or she will affect your whole team. A consistent negative attitude from one person can have a ripple effect on everyone.

Make your goals clear and ask staff for their input on how to reach them.

Employees who think their suggestions and opinions matter feel invested in the company. Let people know when their ideas are used and have had an impact. Every person wants to feel valued for what they can bring to the table. A leader who actively seeks feedback, and listens to it, promotes an atmosphere of true respect throughout an organization.

Care about your people.

Our coworkers have the potential to become trusted allies and lifelong friends – or easily forgotten acquaintances we barely register. As the boss, you can model connection and support among your staff or indifference and apathy. It’s not hard to recognize which approach creates a culture where people want to work hard and stay.

Although many companies may try to manufacture an instant corporate culture with flashy perks designed to dazzle, that glimmer soon wears off and we are left with the day to day business of going to work. Organizations that have truly invested in developing an environment that is meaningful to its employees know that culture is defined by people sharing a commonly held belief and purpose – and this bind keeps them committed to each other and their shared success.


Susan Bryant is a writer and editor who enjoys working on diverse subject matter and collaborating on interesting projects. She can be contacted at susanbryant7@gmail.com.