[Column] Bob Koigi: Culture oils the wheels of any successful business
What makes a company grow? And how do we determine the growth of a company? Is it its impressive financial results? The storms it has weathered? Its expansion portfolio?
Just what makes a company tick? At the face of it, it may seem like an ABC question. Of course companies need sales, growth, customers, revenue and eventually profit, that is the perfection definition of a growing company. Or is it?
Sitting with entrepreneurs from across East Africa at an investors conference everyone went round and round in giving the ingredients of success and growth of a company. And they were right. Because every business has its ethos, its guiding principles, its vision through which they hinge their success and growth. But nothing beats the essence of a culture. For businesses and their drivers, the staff, have to drive it based on a philosophy and a way of doing things, and it is this way of doing this, the culture if you may, that will drive sales, win customers and spur growth.
In fact according to a survey of senior executives at major African companies, 91 percent of 1,200 executives agreed that “culture is as important as strategy for business success.” Building an entrepreneurial and productive culture is essential to building a successful and a great company. It is also critically important in weathering the inevitable dark days and maximizing opportunities presented when things are going well.
In this article, I will share the principles you can utilize to build an amazing productive culture for your company.
But cultures dont just happen, they are made to happen. Culture is not built by giving employees a handbook with nice phrases no one can repeat. Everyone in the company, from the CEO on down , needs to constantly apply the values in their day to day activities and explicitly highlight when these values are being used as a guiding light in decision making..
A good leader encourages and challenges everyone in the company to think about the ideas that can significantly benefit the customers, partners and employees. They make sure that they can talk directly to the potential implementers or have the ability to easily connect with the right decision makers and get a quick follow-up. Any friction in the process will kill the idea generation and submission process. In our company, employees can submit ideas directly to the CEO or other execs and we make sure to follow-up on the same day.
Finally, invest heavily in training and mentorship and create opportunities for all employees to learn, to grow in responsibilities, to contribute and to be recognized. As a result of our collective efforts, we have created a culture that our employees love and over 40 percent of new hires come from employee referrals.
Culture building is not one time activity but needs constant attention and iteration.
Building a winning culture requires regular and sincere effort by the entire leadership team, but it is essential to create a great company.
Multiple award winning Kenyan journalist Bob Koigi is Chief Editor East Africa at Africa Business Communities