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As a business, have you expressed your culture in written format? Does your business have a culture? Is that culture unique?  

In this video, I discuss what culture is and why it is important for a small business to have one. I further explore how a small business like yours can start building a culture that would benefit you. 

What is culture?  

Culture is who we are as a company and how we do things. A Harvard Business Review article defines culture as the following: 

Culture guides discretionary behavior and it picks up where the employee handbook leaves off. Culture tells us how to respond to an unprecedented service request. It tells us whether to risk telling our bosses about our new ideas, and whether to surface or hide problems. Employees make hundreds of decisions on their own every day, and culture is our guide. Culture tells us what to do when the CEO isn’t in the room, which is of course most of the time.”  

Brian Chesky, founder of AirBnB, similarly defines culture as 

 “… simply a shared way of doing something with passion. Our culture is the foundation for our company.” 

What determines “culture”?  

Culture is determined by your core values. 

AirBnB, Zappos, and Netflix—US-based startups that have grown into large businesses—all say the same thing: that culture is the embodiment of one’s core values. 

Tony Hsieh, founder of Zappos says that it is  

… necessary to come up with core values — essentially, a formalised definition of our culture — in order for us to continue to scale and grow.”  

Core values are, as defined in Netflix’s Culture Manifesto, “are the behaviors and skills that we particularly value in fellow employees.” These values determine “who gets rewarded, promoted, or let go.” 

So, in a nutshell, culture is a way of doing things, and it is guided by what the company values. 

Why is culture important? 

  1. It guides you on who to hire or even which clients to take on. Are you hiring someone who will work well with the team—someone who shares the same values and beliefs as everyone else? In small businesses, hiring is something done usually on a gut feel. For the most part, it works, but this can go sideways on a bad day. Having those values explicitly described in a statement provides one with something to reflect on during those days when the gut sends mixed signals. 
  2. It allows the team to “retune one’s focus.” It’s easy to get lost in the day-to-day operations of a small business. A written statement is a great way to remind us of why we’re doing what we’re doing, and it’s useful in getting everyone along a guided track. 
  3. Great culture and fun is one of four traits one needs to succeed in business, as I discuss in a previous video. 

How do you build a company culture? 

With AirBnB and Netflix, culture is determined by the top. The founders have a clear idea of what they value and what they want to see in the future for their company.  

With Zappos, they didn’t have any formal core values in the first six or seven years of the company’s history. When Hsieh decided that it was time to put things to paper, Hsieh got everyone’s input and put that in writing—specifically, he sent an email to everyone describing each core value in detail. Every new hire gets the same email, and are asked to sign a document signifying that they have read and understood the document. 

Should you have a written company culture? The short answer is yes. The top companies of our time all have their company culture and core values spelled out and written down. These statements serve as a beacon—a reminder on how one should think and do, and a guide when making decisions, particularly tough ones. Culture, after all, is a way of doing things—and having it written down makes it easier for everyone to remember how things should be done. 

What if you haven’t written it down? There are few things you can start doing now.  

  1. Write it down. For small businesses, the culture is very much determined by the owner. Where else to start but with you. What do you stand for? What values to you hold sacred and important? 
  2. Maybe you’re little unsure if you have everything covered? You can do what Zappos’s Hsieh did and ask everyone for their two cents. This is easy if you have a small team. But if you’re unsure about whether to get everyone involved or how to do it, why not talk to a handful of people you trust in your organisation and see what they think. 
  3. Get some help. Like many small businesses, the owners of Whole Kids Australia (link forthcoming) did not have their culture statement written down in the beginning. However, as the business expanded, they decided that they needed to be explicit about their purpose and values, and so they hired a consultant to help them formalise this statement.

Most importantly, as a business owner, you need to champion these values. You live them everyday. You hire people based on these values. You decide who gets promoted based on these values—and the ones who are let go.   

If you are interested to know more about what a business has to go through when facing exponential growth, you can download the first chapter of the book, ”$20K to $20 Million in 2 Years” absolutely free here. The chapter talks about the differences between a good and a great business and puts out questions that make you consider how you can turn your business from good to great. 

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As business owners, we go through a high level of stress as you try to manage your business and work with your team during this period of time.   

In this video, I explain why it makes business sense to help team members struggling during this pandemic and what you can do to help them manage the challenges they are facing. 

There are many benefits to nurturing an environment that genuinely takes care of your team. As I explained in a previous video, emotions drive productivity—and positive emotions result in increased productivity. On the flip side, negative emotions and stress decrease productivity.  

In yet another video, I explained that having the right kind of environment, where people feel respected and where members of the team are confident that others have their back, is key to developing a high-powered team. Most importantly, remember that your business is operated by your team. When they struggle, your business struggles, too. Richard Branson famously said, “Take care of your employees and they take care of your business.”  

What can you do to help your employees manage during the Covid-19 pandemic? 

First, it helps the most to shift your mindset and remember that this is not business as usual. Nothing will work or appear as usual. This is a pandemic that will likely stretch out for months or even years to come. For some businesses, this may mean making many drastic measures with how they do their business, how they run their operations, and how they serve their customers. 

While change is the only thing constant in the world, adapting to change can still be a struggle—some more than others. Your business isn’t the only one experiencing this change. Many things are changing, too, in people’s households. Everything looks very different from the normal that we are used to.  

It will help your employees if you help them change their mindset, too. Check-in with your employees regularly. Ask them how they are coping. Work with them on how to provide the necessary tools and support so that they can succeed not just in their work but also in adapting to the new normal. 

It is also important to provide guidelines on how employees can take care of their physical and mental health during this time. If you haven’t already, take swift action to implement recommended public health measures. 

Second, be transparent. People experience a lot of stress, which comes from a lot of uncertainty and changes. Everyone who needed to work remotely has had to juggle their home life with work life. Being in a pandemic, some people fear getting sick, or having a loved one fall ill. This pandemic has also affected economies and businesses, so there is also the fear of losing jobs. 

As employers, we can address their uncertainties with their jobs by being transparent with how the business is going and, more importantly, what measures you are doing to help keep things afloat. It will also help your employees if you communicate what you need from them so that everyone knows what they should be doing to help the business going despite the uncertainty. 

Be transparent with your customers, too. Again, this is not business as usual. Some things will take longer to process, produce, or deliver. Let your customers know about any supply or service issues that you are experiencing. This will help manage their expectations. This will also help your employees who deal with your customers—you don’t want your customers to take their frustrations out on your employees if they don’t receive the same level of service that they are used to. 

Thirdly, train leaders, managers, and colleagues on how to support employees. Sometimes, the lack of support is not a result of the lack of intent to provide support. Many times, it is brought by the lack of understanding on how to provide support. Some managers may not understand how supporting a struggling employee looks like. And some policies or tools that managers would typically lean on may no longer work during this time.  

If your business can afford it, you may seek help from a consultant or business coach to train managers on how to manage during Covid-19. If you can’t, you may want to meet with your managers as a group to conceive a plan on how you provide support to each other at this time.  

Lastly, offer flexibility. If your business allows employees to work remotely during this time and your employees will feel safer or they feel that this is the best option for them in the short- to medium-term, please do so.  

The important thing is to make work expectations clear. What do they need to accomplish at a given period of time? Or, what kind of turnaround time do you expect from them? For example, you give them something to work on at the beginning of the week, when do you expect them to turn over the work? Do you expect them to turn in work at the end of the week or the beginning of next week? Please be as clear as possible  

It’s important that expectations are clear as this affects morale and productivity. It especially affects employees who may not be working remotely—they may feel that they are not offered the same level of flexibility. In a previous video, I explain how you can boost morale and motivate a team that is comprised of both remote and in-house employees. 

How about you? How are you helping manage your employees during the Covid19 pandemic? Send me an email or leave a reply below. I’d love to hear your thoughts.  

If you are interested to know more about what a business has to go through when facing exponential growth, you can download the first chapter of the book, ”$20K to $20 Million in 2 Years” absolutely free here. The chapter talks about the differences between a good and a great business and puts out questions that make you consider how you can turn your business from good to great. 

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Oct 13, 2020 Raymond Huan (0)

The negative impact of the global pandemic is felt by businesses large and small around the world. To keep afloat, many are looking for ways to not just stay in business but also to find more business.  

In this video, I explore three ways that you can start doing today to set you up for increased sales.  

Covid-19 has brought economic challenges across the board, forcing many businesses to find ways to stay afloat. Some businesses have opted to do the #COVIDPivot, which I discussed in a previous video. Essentially, the #COVIDPivot entails developing a new business model, introducing a new product, or finding a new market. Doing any of those three may help you get more sales.  

But what if this doesn’t apply to your business? Or, what if I’ve done that already, but it isn’t working as I had hoped it to work--what else can you do? Or how else can I supplement my other efforts so that I can bring in more sales? 

Here are three things that you can start doing today, or more of today, to help you bring in higher revenue or turnover for your business. 

  • Reach out to your customers, or potential customers.  

If you haven’t reached out to your customers since Covid-19 hit, it is best to do it now. Many businesses do this.  

Talk to them about how you are doing, too. Were you affected by the crisis? How are you affected by the global pandemic? How has that affected your ability to do business? How has that affected your employees—and what are you doing to help your employees? Continue the conversation by telling your customers how you plan on moving forward—and how you would like them to move forward with you. 

And once you continue with this conversation, you’ll find that you’re not only building trust between you and your customers, but you are also building and nurturing a community around your brand, just as I discuss in the video on how to build a community during the age of social distancing (link forthcoming).  

  • Develop your distribution channel. 

Part of the reason for reaching out to your customers is understanding their pain points. One of the challenges that consumers experience during the pandemic is finding ways to purchase goods and services as a result of community quarantines and lockdowns imposed by governments to curb the spread of the coronavirus. This resulted in many businesses operating in a limited capacity, so getting goods and services to customers became a challenge. 

So when you get to reach out to your customers, ask them for feedback. Would they prefer that you deliver to their doorstep, instead of buying in-store? Would they prefer that they order online instead of purchasing in-store? Do they want these changes only in the short-term, or do they want these options available to them permanently? 

The global pandemic is said to affect normal as we know it—and many things, including consumer lifestyles, will change permanently. And so the immediate need is to understand how your customer’s lifestyles will change and how you can address these changes so that you can keep up with their wants and needs. 

  • Develop complementary or supplementary products or services. 

Many businesses had to turn to digital marketing when governments ordered lockdowns and community quarantines. To supplement their limited offerings and to ensure that they can keep in touch with their customers, many of these businesses offered webinars or online training classes. Some of them were offered for free, like Single O Café, who offered short classes on their social media accounts. Some bundled these classes with their offerings. 

Asian Mint, a Thai restaurant in Texas, USA, had to quickly pivot and create a new product when the state of Texas ordered the closure of dining rooms to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus. Asian Mint offered cooking kits to allow their customers to cook some of the restaurant’s favourite dishes in the comfort of their own home. Each kit contained raw ingredients and instructions on how to cook each dish. As a complement, they also offered free virtual cooking classes, which they streamed on their social media accounts, to help customers learn how to cook their kits. The restaurant also opened their pantry where their customers can source additional ingredients. 

Some vineyards offer wine tasting classes. Wineries would send in bottles of their wines and a link to an online virtual class. Other wineries would partner with restaurants so that they can offer cold cuts and cheese and offer a class that discussed how to properly pair wines with dishes.  

What I find very interesting during this global pandemic is how businesses are responding to the challenges that it brought about. Many business owners are creating their own disruptions and finding different ways not just to stay afloat but also get ahead of the curve.  

If you are interested to know more about what a business has to go through when facing exponential growth, you can download the first chapter of the book, ”$20K to $20 Million in 2 Years” absolutely free here. The chapter talks about the differences between a good and a great business and puts out questions that make you consider how you can turn your business from good to great. 

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Great leaders motivate people. What do great leaders do repeatedly and consistently to motivate their team?

As leaders, we want motivated people to work in our teams because they’re productive and perform at their best.

Everyone is motivated by their ‘WHY’. Our ‘WHY’ explains why we do what we do. In a previous video (Understanding our WHY—and why that matters), I explored why entrepreneurs and business owners need to know and understand their ‘why’. The answer is because our purpose as business owners guides us on what we should do and how we should do it by providing a very good reason on why we should do it.

Employees are also motivated by their WHYs. The common advice is to lead employees in a way that aligns with their WHYs. This is important—because if we miss out in understanding what that WHY is, we run the risk of rolling out policies that, although well-intentioned, will run contrary to motivating people.

Let’s take a very well-intentioned attendance reward program that recognised and rewarded employees who came to work on time every single day for oneentire month, which I discussed in a previous video. On the flipside of this program was that if anyone came in tardy at any time during the month, they will not be eligible for this reward. At the end of the program, the company found that the policy became counterproductive. In fact, the company discovered that they lost 1.4% of daily productivity!

The problem with this program is that it tried to motivate people through an external motivating factor, like money, which they found out does not effectively motivate people. What gets people motivated instead are internal factors—which is essentially our WHYs or our PURPOSE.

So what should you do instead?

In another video, I discussed examples of policies designed to align with employees’ internal motivating factors. One company focused on providing employees with a reasonable amount of autonomy through reducing working hours. This, in turn, gave employees a greater sense of responsibility. Another policy focused on continually providing opportunities for professional development. It aligned with the employees’ desire to develop their skills.

These policies were designed through a significant course in time and suited the kind of business that the companies were involved in. These certainly require long-term planning prior to execution.

Perhaps the more pressing question for you is: what can I do consistently and repeatedly starting today so that I can build and nurture a team of motivated individuals?

Here are some practical tips to motivating people in your team that you can do on a regular basis.

  1. Be more engaged with people.

People, in general, appreciate it when other people take an interest in their well-being. They particularly appreciate it when they know that their bosses care for them and are working to provide support. Schedule time with your employees to check in on them regularly, whether weekly, fortnigthly or quarterly. Check on them—how are they doing? Do they have any issues that you need to address? In some organisations, top bosses schedule 15-minute catch up meetings with their subordinates at the end of the week to check up on their progress and general well-being.

  • Make it a habit to ask when an employee is facing a problem or challenge at work: what do you need to help you do your job better?

Often, the people who cause problems have the knowledge and ability to solve them. Many times, too, these problems can be resolved more quickly when employees are provided with some level of support by the organisation--perhaps tweaks in the process, provisions of additional resources, or designing better policies. But we can’t find solutions if we don’t understand the problem, and so it is always a good idea to ask.

  • Help employees find meaning and purpose in their work.

Not everyone will have the privilege of knowing and understanding their WHY—or even find meaning in their work. This is more common with people who perform repetitive tasks. To me, one of the best ways of motivating them is to make them understand how important their tasks are in the whole scheme of things.

Let’s say you have an employee who is responsible for filing boring paperwork. The task itself can be tedious, and repetition can make it boring. For some, menial tasks can be disheartening, and this can cause people to make mistakes. One of the best ways to motivate people to do this task is to make them understand the repercussions of sloppy work. What happens if he or she files an important document in the incorrect folder? What if that document is important and required by, say an important regulatory agency or a key client? And what if the document was urgently needed but could not be found merely because it was filed incorrectly?

When people understand how important their job is, it will be easier for them to understand how important it is for them to do it well.

  • Train! Training comes in many forms: formal training, mentoring, shadowing, or even cross-training in different departments. Find opportunities where employees are allowed to train and be trained.
  • Praise publicly, criticise privately.

No one is perfect and we’re all prone to make mistakes. Feedback is crucial so that we know whether we’re doing a good job or a bad one. The key to motivating employees is knowing how to provide feedback. Recognising employees publicly results in two things: (1) it provides feedback to that employee that the bosses see the good work, which motivates the employee to continue doing good work, and (2) it provides other employees with behaviour that they can model so that they, too, can be recognised.

On the other hand, providing negative feedback privately is also important because it provides the employee with an opportunity and a game plan to rectify his or her mistake. It is also an opportunity for you, as leader and business owner, to understand certain issues and concerns that contributed to this mistake—and provides you with an opportunity to correct it. It’s also a learning opportunity for both you and the employee to learn from this.

If you are interested to know more about what a business has to go through when facing exponential growth, you can download the first chapter of the book, ”$20K to $20 Million in 2 Years” absolutely free here. The chapter talks about the differences between a good and a great business and puts out questions that make you consider how you can turn your business from good to great.

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Some teams work in-house. Some teams work from home. As more companies are creating policies and measures to respond to the current global pandemic and its residual effects, which experts predict to linger for at least two more years, workplaces will look very different from today.

In this video, we explore how you can boost employee morale when you have in-house and remote teams working with and for you in this ever-changing workplace.

The sweeping changes brought by the coronavirus pandemic will affect the workforce in various ways, and this includes employee morale. Many workers have been encouraged to work from home to lower the risk of coronavirus spread. Some companies, such as Facebook, Square and Google, have started putting infrastructure in play to enable some of its workforces to work from home in the long term, or even permanently.

Telecommuting or working remotely is not an entirely new concept as it has existed to some degree for a few decades now. However, the events in recent years, such as globalisation and the emergence of certain risks, such as the coronavirus pandemic, combined with shifts in modern technology and demands for greater workplace flexibility has made remote work more familiar and accessible to more workers.

While remote work has its advantages, particularly in providing workers greater autonomy and flexibility in how and where they work, it also has its downside. Health experts monitoring the effects of increased remote work during the global pandemic reports that mental health issues are surging.

And then there is also the issue of how remote work is viewed by in-house workers who have not experienced working remotely. There is a certain stigma with remote work—some people may think those who work from home, work less to watch Netflix more or take excursions to the mall or the beach more often.

Well, if you’ve ever tried working from home, you know that this is far from the case. In fact, more studies show that people who work from home suffer from anxiety and stress precisely because they work longer hours.

If you’re a business which keeps a mix of remote and in-house workers, this becomes a pressing issue because this affects overall employee morale, and consequently, employee productivity. So how do you motivate your team and boost team morale when your team is a mix of remote and in-house workers?

Here are three key factors:

(1) Keep deliverables and policies clear.

First things first, determine how employees will be evaluated.

Employees are appraised based on whether they show up at work or not. In the traditional workplace, this is measured by their physical presence at work and the number of hours they spend working. Did they show up today? Did they work the full 8 hours?

In remote teams, measures are not as straightforward. While there is software that may allow you to measure whether a remote worker is working on their desktop at particular times of the day, this seems rather counterintuitive to why we allow remote work to begin with, which is to provide greater autonomy and flexibility. In my previous video, How to motivate employees the right way, I explored how cutting the number of work hours to provide employees with a greater (but reasonable) amount of autonomy motivates employees and results in greater productivity.

As work shifts in-house to remote locations, measures of productivity should shift, too. And these measures should apply to both in-house and remote teams. The focus, then, should be on output,  creating and enforcing policies that enable and encourages workers to focus on delivery. Did they do the work that they were supposed? Where they able to accomplish the work?

But what if workers are required to “show up” to work at specific hours of the day? What if the type of work requires teams to chat with or deal with customers at particular hours of the day? How do we, as a business, handle that?

Here’s an example of a business whose employees all work remotely but “show up” for work at pre-determined times of the day: Mountain Bikes Direct. In a previous video, I discuss how they keep their team motivated despite all of them working remotely from different parts of the world. The key to this productivity is being clear about what is expected from each team member. Being fair to everyone is an important factor that determines employee morale.

(2) Stay in contact.

Promote a positive, inclusive culture by setting up regular catch up meetings, where both in-house and remote team members are present.

The catch-up meetings can be a venue to update the team about the state of current projects or a venue to elicit help from each other to fix issues. Alternatively, these can be informal virtual coffee or cocktail meetings (depending on the profile of your team) for people to just catch up and share stories to nurture team bonding.

Aside from these catch-up meetings, businesses should also define how employees can report challenges or issues with work specific to them. Determine a communication plan with clear channels for escalation.

What if a remote worker experiences connectivity issues in the middle of critical work? Where should he or she report this issue, and how should he or she proceed? Or, what if an in-house worker needs to reach a remote team at hours outside of operations for a critical issue? Or, what if an employee, whether in-house or remote, suddenly needs to take a day off for personal reason?

(3) Keep health checks and policies in place.

Experts say that the global pandemic will change the way we work. Remember your team member who would report to work even if they are sick just because work needs to be done? We used to measure worker diligence and commitment based on what an employee is willing to sacrifice just to get to work done. It was normal to see a sick person report to work because things needed to get done.

Not anymore.

These “norms” should soon change—and as leaders and business owners, it’s our responsibility to keep everyone safe and healthy. There is a need to revise health policies, particularly policies on when employees should not report to work due to particular illnesses. The new policies and norms should also include measures that address employee mental health, particularly to remote employees who are more susceptible to loneliness isolation, anxiety, and even depression.

People are driven by their purpose. They are motivated to work when they see that their work contributes towards this purpose. They are also motivated when there is fairness when policies are equally enforced so that good work is recognised and offences are corrected.

If you are interested to know more about what a business has to go through when facing exponential growth, you can download the first chapter of the book, ”$20K to $20 Million in 2 Years” absolutely free here. The chapter talks about the differences between a good and a great business and puts out questions that make you consider how you can turn your business from good to great.

Read more >