Featured in Forbes: Five Next Steps For Your Growing Business

As seen in Forbes by Kelly Ehlers

Company culture is the engine that drives a business — and accelerating growth requires regular maintenance. Ensure your company’s longevity by transforming culture into continuity with these tips:

Scale your growth mindset.

Early-career entrepreneurs are focused on one goal: growth. Bigger is always better, right? In reality, rapid-growth can’t — and shouldn’t — be the long-term goal. Don’t get me wrong, growth is vital, but there is a learning curve. As founder of an Inc. 500 company, I’ve navigated the challenges that come with scaling a new business during rapid growth. At some point, entrepreneurs must redirect their resources to sustaining a steady, predictable level of growth and retention. Rapid-growth demands a lot of an entrepreneur. It also helps prepare us for the next step.

Consider your breakeven point as the foundation. Achieving sustainability means you can redirect your attention from that foundation and build upward, making room not only for economic stability but also the day-to-day focus. Once you’ve achieved this stability, you can start planning for steady, long-term growth. As an entrepreneur, it’s worth the extra effort to prevent burnout — and an often overlooked starting point is right in front of you. The key to a healthy, sustainable business model lies in an ethos of employee engagement.

Communicate to motivate.

Maintaining your business is easier said than done, but the first step is communication. Want to know what will keep your employees motivated? Just ask. Listening to team feedback and addressing employee needs takes effort but can boost retention of your top talent.

Developing a foundation of trust belongs at the top of your to-do list. This starts with showing employees that they are safe to voice their needs and that they will be heard. Keep in mind that you can’t please everyone, but you can carefully consider each request. Changes won’t happen overnight, so consider this an ongoing project. Keep in mind that your employees’ needs will evolve as your company grows and changes.

Set the tone for transparency.

Telling employees you have an open-door policy isn’t always enough; sometimes, they need to know you really mean it. One way I’ve created an environment that encourages shy employees is by establishing biweekly company-wide meetings. I invite all staff members — from interns to senior leadership — to share company news over coffee and donuts. What started as a brief check-in grew to an empowering opportunity for employees to demonstrate professional development and share in a sense of community. It also brings different departments together to connect over recent successes, prepare for any upcoming changes and learn about company news firsthand.

While an entrepreneur’s schedule is often tight, that only emphasizes your commitment to your employees. It also helps them contextualize their role in your vision for the company. This big-picture context can motivate employees. By making an effort to be transparent and accessible, you are setting expectations for the company. These expectations are always in flux and the best strategy is to invite conversation. Practicing an open-door policy lets your team bring you their concerns while you determine which pivots take priority. Then, you can restructure current company culture to best accommodate your team and support the continued growth of your business.

Engage your team.

Entrepreneurs are passionate about their business ventures. It’s kind of our thing. While our teams may not match our level of passion, they can — and should — still be invested in the company. Show them you’re invested in their personal and professional well-being by scaling your benefits and perks with your growing company.

Developing genuine engagement is an ongoing goal and, in this case, the work pays off. According to Gallup, keeping your top talent happy in their roles can lead to up to 27% higher revenue for managing positions. For business leaders, investing in employee satisfaction doesn’t just make the workday more bearable — it creates tangible effects on return on investment, too. The numbers in The State of Employee Engagement may be bleak, but this room for improvement means companies with an engaged staff are even more attractive to potential talent.

Invest in retention.

As your company grows, talent acquisition and engagement take on a larger role. I recommend supplementing your human resources department with best practices that focus on talent and culture. Hiring a pro to go above and beyond will exceed employee expectations and keep them connected. My agency’s in-house manager of talent and culture ensures clear, effective communication that works to find flexible solutions and accountability across all levels. She facilitates connections between employees and the company, from recruitment to retention.

When choosing to expand your benefits, don’t just think of new and interesting perks. Look to the long-term for benefits that will provide your employees with the purpose, motivation and accountability it takes to stay dedicated to the continued success of your business. As growth triggers change in your business, you’ll need to keep company culture flexible. By letting employees lead necessary shifts, time at work becomes more enjoyable, returns continue to increase and your company can establish longevity.

Recognize that the needs of your team are constantly evolving and dynamic, just like your business. While sustainability starts with revenue and profitability, we as entrepreneurs must step back and remind ourselves that these benchmarks only happen when our teams are working efficiently.

Monica Hickey