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What is Organisational Culture? How Can You Improve Yours?

Every business, even a sole operator, has an organisational culture – a set of beliefs, values and assumptions that guides the operation of the business. This culture is not something hidden inside the business owner or staff, a kind of secret agreement on how things run. Business culture governs how your clients see your business. It is a fundamental part of your service, and if you don’t pay attention to it, you are letting your business down.

How does business culture affect sales?

Imagine someone setting up a bridal wear salon. They get a great location in a big mall next to a hairdresser and a beautician. They order stock, hire staff, the doors open. A month later, the doors close. Why? It turned out that the owner didn’t believe in marriage! Instead of sharing the client’s excitement, owner and staff spent much of their time sniggering at clients behind their backs and trying to up-sell to make as much money as possible out of their clients’ desire for the best on their big day. Sensing insincerity, brides-to-be spread the word among their friends, and the business closed. Take home message – if you don’t believe in marriage, don’t try to make a living out of it. If the ocean doesn’t interest you, don’t open a surf shop. Your beliefs are the backbone of your business.

Values and how to improve on them

Values are the down-to-earth cousins of beliefs and are more susceptible to change. Even if you don’t believe in marriage for example, you may still value loyalty, kindness, humour, honesty, hard work – which all attributes of a good marriage. Just like a person can display their values in their actions, your business showcases your values every time there’s a client interaction.

If you want your business to be one that rewards loyalty for example, start up a loyalty card system. Make sure staff understand that loyalty is important to you. Talk to them about how you can show appreciation to loyal customers.

If you want a reputation for honesty, praise staff when they own up to mistakes and make it clear that admitting the mistake is important to you. That way, if they make a mistake with a client, they won’t try to avoid responsibility and put the blame on the client, giving the client a negative perception of your business.

Communication is the key to good business

Keep an eye on how your business culture is developing by holding weekly meetings. Weekly meetings are a chance for you and your staff to openly discuss issues before they become problems.

Being able to communicate with clients and suppliers is also important.

Make sure that as well as email, you have fax capability. Being able to send and receive a fax online means you can exchange invoices, receipts, contracts and personal documents with those businesses that still prefer to use traditional fax for legal or security reasons. Instead of buying and maintaining an office fax machine, you can use email to fax, which means you use your email client as a virtual fax machine. Documents are faxed by attaching them to emails, then addressing the email to a fax number. It opens up a new line of communication, giving your company a reputation for being easy to communicate with.

By making it clear to yourself and your staff what your beliefs are, and by encouraging values and openness, you will develop a positive organisational culture, one which will in time become as much of an asset to your brand as your services and staff.

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