Business culture starts at the top. This is even more pronounced in a small business. Culture is largely based on principles and how people are treated. The beliefs and values of a small business owner permeate the work environment and employees adapt to the resultant culture. Understanding this – a business owner can work to establish a positive culture and therefore improve the success of the business.
- Direction – The way that employees are given direction on how to accomplish things has a huge impact on company culture. If orders are delivered in an authoritarian manner people will tend to do only what they’re told. If employees share in the decision process when determining how to accomplish things they’ll assume ownership of the outcome. People are different and some require direct management and need to be told how to perform their responsibilities. Others are better suited to being told what needs to be done and developing their own methods for achieving the desired outcome. A business owner must be flexible in this regard but the bottom line is that culture is positively or negatively impacted by the way direction is provided by the person at the top of the organization.
- Contributions – A business owner should honestly assess the ability of organization members to contribute ideas. Can employees make suggestions on how to improve business operations and are they honestly considered and evaluated? Or are their ideas put off, discouraged or viewed as complaints? What percentage of employee suggestions are actually implemented? Some business owners view employee suggestions as ideas that result in increased responsibility or expense to the owner. Others ask employees how they would implement the ideas, how much they’ll cost and where the funding will come from. Much more is accomplished with the second alternative.
- Feedback – Employee feedback is very important to business culture. Feedback can be positive or negative. If employees only experience negative feedback – that is they only hear about it when something goes wrong – they’ll most likely resort to doing only what’s required of them and will avoid responsibility. Some managers apply negative feedback with the objective of correcting a process to prevent the same problem from occurring again. This will result in the best possible outcome when something wrong occurs. Also if employees receive positive feedback when good things occur they’ll be more receptive to criticism.
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