I’ve been on somewhat of a culture kick lately. I have always known the importance of corporate culture but for some reason my various observations have come to the forefront in recent weeks. I have recently posted about turning the opinion of a customer, core values, employee-management relations, and the public face of the company. All of these things have at least one thing in common: they are all an integral part of corporate culture.
When companies are small it is easy to convey culture. Less people means communication is easier and it is thus a simpler process to convey expectations. Likewise, when a company is small the individuals who do not fit into the corporate culture stick out and become rather apparent. However, as a company grows we often see that the communication becomes muddled and it is easier for anomalies to find their way in. If you study many successful large companies you will see that most of them are able to translate small company success into large company success through the proper maintenance of their corporate culture.
For a while now I have been watching my company grow and have been lucky enough to witness it shift from a small/medium to a large company mentality. My focus in school was on small business so I studied plenty of cases where small companies rapidly grew and how they handled the process. I have been very interested in seeing how upper management handled the process here. I am happy to say that we are doing a great job, at least from my vantage point.
We have had a few meetings lately where the CEO spent a few hours with a large group of people going over different aspects of our own corporate culture. We used to achieve this process through what we term “patio meetings”. In these patio meetings the entire staff would come to an open space, where ever one was available, and the CEO or someone else would talk to us. Many times the meeting was called to announce a new client or milestone but we rarely walked away from any meeting without first having a lesson in corporate culture instilled in us. As the company continues to grow it will inevitably become harder to maintain a strong culture through patio meetings alone. Recognizing this, the company created a “Management Development Program” geared towards teaching our culture through a series of seminars.
The road from a small company to a large company is difficult and fraught with perils. It is arguably more difficult than the road from nothingness to a small company. If history paints an accurate depiction of how to make this transition smoother, it will inevitably have to be tightly coupled with a strong corporate culture.