How Not to Lose Your Culture

We have recently been going through a transition at Celaque, as we have doubled the number of people on our core team in the last six months. This means that we are growing, which was one of our original objectives when we first became a company. At times, however, I have felt unmoored in the middle of so much change. Our operations had grown to a level where we needed to expand our team or else, we would not manage.

Because the growth was so rapid, I struggled with bringing on our new team members and making sure they absorb our culture. It has been easier to do this for the teams where we have only added one or two team members at a time. And it has been a challenge for other teams since we have added five times the number of people. Everybody comes with different ideas, which we welcome because they enrich us. But we have a specific way of working, as most companies do, and integrating the new ideas with our common company language takes time and effort.

When you are growing, making sure you maintain your culture – who you are – is important because your culture is the root of your success. These are some of the strategies we have used to preserve our culture while allowing it to evolve as we do.

[Photo: Alex McCarthy/Unsplash]

Stay as small as you can for as long as possible

I have found that staying as small as possible is the easiest way to preserving who you are as a company. Everything becomes more complex when you add more people. Of course, it is an immense relief for an overburdened team to have another pair of hands to take on some of the work, but having more people will create new logistic challenges. From creating the hiring process and onboarding more people to managing larger teams, having a larger company comes with its own set of challenges.

When you grow, you may also feel a yearning for the past, when the team was smaller, and everybody knew each other. Of course, you can only put off growing for a limited amount of time. If you are growing, it means you are successful at what you are doing, so cheers to that!

Make sure that enough people know your culture and that those that know it the most train others

At Celaque, we set up each new hire with a mentor from a different department of the firm. This way, the new person gets to know someone he or she would not ordinarily know, as well as another person to teach him or her about the company. The mentor is usually someone we trust and has been with us for a while.

We also set up training sessions with our most knowledgeable people. They are the ones who will best communicate our values and how we work. If we have several new hires, we set up the training sessions so that everybody is trained at the same time, allowing everybody to ask questions and share ideas.

As much as possible, we try to hire one person at a time and not many simultaneously. The reason for this is to make sure that we can gradually transmit how we work and what our values are to those who join us. Much of this knowledge transfer is tacit, from person to person, learned from experience; we also try to make the training explicit by taking the important elements and setting them down in our processes and manuals.

It takes some time sometimes, but you will be able to infuse and enrich your culture little by little.

[Photo: Harold Mendoza/Unsplash]

Create opportunities to celebrate who you are

Make sure you keep up your company traditions as you grow. Even though you will probably be even busier now that you are growing, make sure you continue them. We have a tradition at our company that we have Doritos, plantain chips, and onion dip every time we have a celebration or a meeting. Those snacks never fail, and we all look forward to them.

Regular meetings, holiday traditions, and so on – those all bind your company together and can amplify your culture.

Take in the new

Your new hires will also teach you, so take in everything they bring. Your company will evolve with them, and you will all grow together.

Pamela Ayuso - About the Author

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Pamela Ayuso is an author and the co-founder and CEO of Celaque. She is a real estate entrepreneur and developer who has executive leadership experience in two of the most successful real estate developers in Honduras — managing operations at Alianza and leading Celaque. Celaque develops office and residential buildings and manages a broad portfolio of properties. Pamela’s focus is on growing Celaque into a model for the 21st-century company.

In addition to her role as CEO at Celaque, Pamela is the author of Amazon best-selling book, Heptagram: The 7-Pillar Business Design System for the 21st Century. She offers practical business and personal development insights for other entrepreneurs and business leaders on her blog and LinkedIn. Her husband and her three wonderful daughters inspired the story of her first children’s book, Alicia and Bunnie Paint a Mural.       

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