Mark Jourdain, Solution Consultants

• Create and communicate a clear vision and value set

Whatever the size of your business, a clear vision is essential. This is about what you want your business to be, based on goals and aspirations. For me, a vision is essential to giving your business that clear focus, keeping you on track, and in the right direction – especially during periods of growth and change.

Placing your vision at the core of your business will engage and motivate your people, your customers and partners – that’s why it’s vital to communicate it consistently. People fundamentally need to know the what and why of what they are doing. Building a vision on a set of defined, authentic values will help define the way your business works and communicates. A values-based framework helps make decisions, set company priorities and define behaviour, creating your business’ own way of doing things.

• People like us

“Hire for attitude and train for skill.” A vision clearly underpinned by a set of meaningful values helps inform major decisions- none more so than recruitment. For a small business, where you’re often hiring from the ground up, this is more important than ever. Of course, some roles require a certain level of experience or skillset but where we’ve fallen down is when our values aren’t met by hires.

Being prepared to invest in training and development brings a far more effective return when your employee is committed to your vision and shares your values. Your employees are your ambassadors and advocates, so being able to share your business culture – internally and externally - is vital. Ultimately, a skill can be trained, but a person’s attitude is harder to change.

• Empower, trust, recognise

Throughout my career, I’ve seen that truly exceptional performance comes from employees with autonomy and responsibility. As a business owner, it can be hard to let go of certain tasks – especially as the business grows. However by delegating and creating clear lines of responsibility across your team, you can ultimately free up the time to enable you to bring long-term value to your business. In this way you can shape a culture that is independent and self-sustaining.

Praise is another key ingredient for a positive team culture – it’s the most simple, cost effective way to incentivise. Recognising even the small wins and successes is a way to reinforce the behaviours and values that define your business; compared with financial reward, recognition tied into progression, development and appreciation wins every time.

• Use your size in your favour

As a small business a real point of difference is the relationships you have with customers. Culture needs to extend beyond your business. Many small – mid-size businesses pride themselves on their ability to be super-responsive to customers, understand their business needs and have that direct dialogue with them. As the business grows, the personal element can be lost, with customers no longer having that single point of contact. Remember you can create a value-added factor not only for what you sell, but in the delivery. Safeguard your culture as your business grows and encourage your team – at all levels- to see things from a small business perspective, supporting customers' needs at that personal level.

• Align your culture to your business model

This is about growing your culture beyond your business. Ensuring your business model is aligned closely with customer needs, employee behaviour, your values and, importantly, has the agility to adapt and grow as these shift is key. Culture needs to breathe and grow as your business - and its stakeholders – evolve. This adaptability is what will set you apart and enable your customers, team and partners connect with your culture.