Building an Entrepreneurial Culture

“Culture is one of the most precious things a company has,” said Herb Kelleher, Founder, Southwest Airlines.  “So you must work harder on it than anything else.”

For the entrepreneurial business, its culture begins from day one.  The culture is a reflection of the values the entrepreneur brings into the business.

Culture is important for an entrepreneurial venture because it is the mechanism that institutionalizes the values of its founders.  Culture serves to socialize new employees.  It helps them understand how they should treat the customers, how they should treat each other, how they should act in their jobs, and how to generally fit in and be successful within the business.

If managed properly, culture also improves the performance of the business.  Culture is an important part of the overall strategy of the business and helps ensure a growing organisation will continue to meet the expectations of customers that were established by the entrepreneur during the early start-up of the venture.

For many businesses their success has been built on the entrepreneurial nature of the business.  Since it is important to keep the entrepreneurial nature of the business, as that is what has gotten the business this far, it is important to create a culture of entrepreneurship.

“Building a culture that encourages autonomy, risk-taking, and entrepreneurial behaviour is challenging,” said Jennifer Prosek, CEO of CJP Communications and the author of Army of Entrepreneurs: Create an Engaged and Empowered Workforce for Exceptional Business Growth.  “For companies that want to out-think and out-pace the competition, an entrepreneurial culture isn’t optional: it’s an absolute necessity.”

According to Prosek, the key to unleashing that creative energy is to create an entrepreneurial culture based on four pillars.

  1. Authenticity — Demonstrate your sincerity by being enthusiastic about entrepreneurial strategies and actions pursued by the business.
  2. Commitment to People – “An entrepreneurial culture is based on the idea that each individual can be a powerful force for change in the organisation,” said Prosek.  Support the professional development of your staff, celebrate exceptional work, and don’t forget to have fun.
  3. Commitment to the Business — Align an individual’s interests with those of the business. “At my firm, we have a program called Commission for Life™,” explains Prosek, “Which encourages new-business generation: Anyone who books a meeting that results in a new client gets 5 per cent of the revenue for the life of the business.”
  4. Continuous Effort — The work of building a company’s culture never ends.  

Sustaining an entrepreneurial culture starts with who you hire.  It is essential to carefully screen prospective employees to ensure that they will fit within your culture.  An entrepreneurial culture is also sustained by your reward system, by the autonomy and respect you give to your employees, and by consistent communication about your ongoing entrepreneurial vision for the company.

Creating an entrepreneurial culture creates a business that will continue to grow by adapting to change and by actively pursuing new opportunities in the market.

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