Guest post from Jennifer Prosek, CEO of CJP Communications and the author of Army of Entrepreneurs™: Create an Engaged and Empowered Workforce for Exceptional Business Growth. July’s featured author in the Verizon Author Series. You can follow her on Twitter and Facebook.
While many big companies have been reporting record profits, most small businesses are still stuck in the economic downturn. Seventy percent have no plans to expand their staffs over the next 12 months, according to a recent U.S. Bancorp survey of 1,004 U.S. companies with annual revenue of $10 million or less. While there’s no easy fix, what this says to me is that every employee matters and needs to be an engine of growth for the company.
A little history: Several years before the Great Recession hit, I had begun developing the “Army of Entrepreneurs™” model, which seeks to instill an “owner’s mindset” in every employee. I recognized I could no longer singlehandedly run my growing PR firm. I needed an army of leaders, creative thinkers, rainmakers and problem solvers.
When the recession hit, the Army model literally saved my firm. We took a big hit, losing nearly half our business in the worst months of the recession. But my ‘army of entrepreneurs’ found new clients, developed new revenue sources, and expanded existing accounts. While 65 percent of public relations agencies nationwide reported revenue declines, CJP Communications grew.
While any company can develop its own ‘army of entrepreneurs’, there’s one essential element they need to get right and that is the culture. Culture empowers employees, flattens the management structure, democratizes decision making, encourages communication and motivates every member of the team. The four pillars below can help build that culture.
Live the core values of your culture and model entrepreneurial behavior. Entrepreneurs work hard because they’re truly passionate. So get excited about the work you are doing, and your employees will too. Enthusiasm is infectious.
Also, with authenticity comes transparency and honesty. In my company, all information (with the exception of individual salaries) is fair game. Sharing information gives employees what entrepreneurs have as a matter of course — intimate knowledge of the business.
Commitment to People
A big factor in any cultural ecosystem is how people are treated. Are they respected and supported? Are they challenged? Do they have the resources and training they need to advance?
An entrepreneurial culture is based on the idea that each individual can be a powerful force for change in the organization. Investing in professional development is a clear indicator that every person is valuable.
And don't forget to have fun. Celebrating exceptional work, big wins and milestones brings people together, reinforcing teamwork and giving them a chance to bond with one another.
Commitment to the Business
Ultimately, it’s all about the business and its success. One way to strengthen that commitment is to align an individual's interests with those of the business. At my firm, we have a program called Commission for Life™, which encourages new-business generation. Anyone who books a meeting that results in a new client gets 5 percent of the revenue for the life of the business.
The work of building a company’s culture never stops. There are always new ways to improve communications, boost training and provide new challenges. An employee once sent me an e-mail that summed up what a great company culture should strive for: "a living, breathing, adaptable, fun environment."
How do you build your company’s culture?
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