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by Robin Grainger 26th July, 2017
3 min read

How to maintain and foster company culture as you grow

I’m sure all SME founders can relate to being incredibly proud of the culture they have created, as we are at GK and onefourzero. In fact, I am continually impressed by the energy, sense of creativity and enthusiasm that is demonstrated by every member of the team. But culture, by definition, is an organic, ever evolving thing and as any company grows the challenge of sustaining a vibrant, or, indeed any sort of culture grows too.

The Challenge:

Culture is set from the top, so the real challenge is making sure it trickles, or better still, cascades down. At the beginning it was easy, Luke and I were the business; our staff worked with us directly and got to see us pitch, deliver and tell the GK story. We set the ethos, and as two entrepreneurs, I’m proud to say that the spirit of entrepreneurialism remains at the heart of what we do. As we’ve taken on more staff and focused our time on building the business rather than on day-to-day delivery, staff no longer spend as much time out and about with us so they no longer hear our spiel, our narrative of the GK story of how we got to where we are. I’ve worked at organisations where the senior team are heavily bought into the culture, spout it daily, think they live it, breathe it, wear T-shirts with it on, but don’t bother to actually articulate or transfer it to those working under them – how can a growing company avoid falling into this pitfall?

How?

Our new Chairman, Justin Ash, is very keen that we capture our culture and start articulating it more widely. Therefore we are working on a values statement, or bullets, or a narrative or at least something that tells everyone what is expected of them and what they can expect. We’ve always known we have a very special culture here, and we’re keen to explain it to those inside and outside of the company.

Here is a first stab at those bullets:

·        Commercial and innovative

·        Collegiate and supportive

·        Delivering quality

·        Fostering professional happiness

So, once you have codified your values, how do you ensure that they don’t get filed away and forgotten?

At GK and onefourzero we ensure that all members of staff take part in actively promoting the culture. We recently held an away day where everyone was encouraged to share their views on why they worked for GK, what we do well, what we need to improve on and what they think determines our culture.

Our Social and Wellbeing Committee organise monthly socials; not just piss ups – but rounders tournaments, bingo, lawn bowls, karaoke and walking up the O2, to name but a few. There are also weekly football and netball matches that everyone is encouraged to take part in.

It also is important to remember why culture is important. It gives the business a unique identity and helps attract, and retain, both clients and staff. Quality and a commitment to delivering the best results possible for our clients is central to GK’s philosophy and underpins everything we do. We also like to ensure that our staff are rewarded for this, so we have a popular policy where our staff can take 2 hours off at any point in the week; most enjoy saving it to enjoy their Friday afternoons in the sun! Similarly, our flexible working and weekly training programmes allows each member of the team to work in an environment that supports them to be the best consultant they can be. We also have an ethos of promoting from within. We don’t care how old you are, if you deliver for clients, and you’re ready, then you’ll be promoted.

As we continue on our path of rapid growth, we are having fun grappling with the challenges of codifying our culture. We’re proud of the culture we have built but it’s still a work in progress; perhaps it always will be!

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