Four top tips on how to maintain your firm's culture and ethics when growing your business
The heart of Nucleus is our people, they’re the ones who design, build, promote and grow our business and keep our clients happy. That’s why we’ve placed emphasis on maintaining our culture as we grow and also are focused on evolving it to make sure we’re best placed to tackle the next challenge together.
We didn’t get to where we are now without some bumps along the way but here is a guide on how to grow but keep your culture.
Define what matters
Recognising the importance of company culture or put simply ‘the way we do things around here’ and the impact it’ll have on the future success of your business is crucial. It’ll become your backbone, keeping you focused in times of uncertainty or when things get tough.
Your culture should spring from your mission, and from your passion. Losing sight of why you started could kill the very soul of your business. So the challenge to retain it is to inspire all those now working for you to live it.
Tip - As early as possible define your values, get your people involved in the process to make sure those you end up with are truly authentic to you.
Around five years ago Nucleus gathered a group of enthusiastic people representing each of our teams to come up with four values we believe are the essence of who we are and who we want to be.
Never compromise when hiring
Making sure you hire the right people might not sound like the most earth shattering advice but decisions you make early on have such an enormous impact in shaping the future of your business.Scaling up means that there’s considerable pressure to hire quickly and with as little cost as possible. However, if you sacrifice the quality of talent and culture fit for technical ability you’ll take the hit later on due to the financial losses from the inevitable churn that comes from hiring people who don’t share your vision.
Each new person brings with them to your team individual experiences, values and ways of doing things. Meaning your company culture can subtly change over time. Those early hires will have a pivotal role to play in setting the tone for your culture and making sure the next people you bring into the team have what it takes. This part can’t really be overstated.
Although profit, customer and product concerns are front of mind in the early years, investing time in making sure you have the right culture fit and taking part in those interviews of your prospective new hires will be a worthy investment.
Tip - Selecting one person to be your culture sense check who attends all interviews could be a good way to make sure there’s consistency of opinion.
At Nucleus we’ve placed culture fit over technical ability from right from the start. Sure, we’ve kissed a few toads along the way but we’ve learnt from it and made sure to make changes the next time around.
Think small, be candid
Back when you were all in one room, there were candid conversations a plenty. There was too much at stake not to. Now that decisions or conversations aren’t as always make or break, it’s natural for us all to revert to the easy option.
Technology has evolved to make it easier for us to take the human element out of our conversations. Communicating that way has its advantages of course, but nothing can replace face-to-face time in building and strengthening relationships.
People who have been with you from the beginning and are used to wearing many hats might have to become more specialised, so keeping the entire team involved when your hiring and what that means for them will keep your team strong.
Tip - Encourage your people to speak up. If they’ve seen something against our values, you need to know. You’ve noticed something remarkable? Give praise, visibly and often. Treat people as you’d like to be treated.
Working in an agile way at Nucleus means we keep communication lines open and everyone has the opportunity to input and participate. Other teams have adopted daily stand ups or huddles to make sure the team is certain of what they can do to make a difference.
Respect early rituals and be embrace diversity of thought
Know what really matters, what makes your company feel like you, feel different? You’re going to want to keep those later down the line to keep the culture feeling authentic and become a hardwired part of your soul. The result of these get-togethers is a stronger bond, and to foster purposeful connections that encourage connection and collaboration, which can then counteract the associated relationship challenges of rapid growth.
That being said, there’s nothing worse than keeping rituals that just don’t work any more. The more people who join, the more welcome diversity of thought emerges. It’s important to distinguish the difference between a ritual that drives your culture and values and which are relics that no longer fulfill their purpose. For example, the requirement to perhaps consistently work long hours or make yourself available 24/7 isn’t sustainable as you grow.
At Nucleus we’ve kept our fortnightly 4.44 ritual, which even ten years on is still a transparent and meaningful way to connect and celebrate successes with one another. We keep a full roster of social events to make sure our team has plenty of opportunities to get to know one another, bond and have some fun.