Most of us have heard about some of the businesses that consultants and others are calling “cities on a hill,” businesses that really represent the best of what the working world has to offer Americans. We tend to have stereotypes of these businesses — we know that a lot of them are in California, and that a lot of them are in the tech industry. But there are actually a lot better indicators of whether a business is really innovating and excelling in its field.
Some of these indicators, in fact many of them, have to do with the core relationships between workers and their employers. Lots of business consultants will tell you that good working relationships will make or break a business, but what does this mean?
For those who are brainstorming ways to get to the top and enjoy that ‘office of champions’ status, here are ten suggestions for working toward a business model that’s more impressive to everybody, including consultants, journalists and everyone else looking in at your company from the outside.
1. Be Deliberate About Corporate Culture
According to lots of experts, one of the very first building blocks in creating a superior business is to really define a corporate culture from the time that the DBA or business license is inked.
Having a unique corporate culture helps to define a brand. Traditionally, a lot of businesses didn’t put too much thought into this. Their corporate cultures were what you might call “autopilot hierarchical” and every bit as drab as a plain gray suit. That actually worked okay for many 20th century businesses, but now business leaders and executives want their firms to stand out. That starts with having a set of principles and values that will define the company through its entire lifetime. Capital One, a leader in financial depositor services, calls this “hanging out your shingle,” using a phrase traditionally associated with independent law offices advertising their services to communities. Whatever you call it, it’s one of the building blocks to creating a winning firm.
2. Make It People-Centered
In creating this corporate culture, the people at the heart of a business can steer their ship in specific ways that will help them acquire talent, impress the outside world, and build a better business. One of the core values should be a focus on people, and a respect for individual workers.
As just one specific example, you may have heard about companies coming forward in providing unprecedented accommodations for new mothers, as in this coverage of Blue Cross/Blue Shield North Carolina and other firms going the extra step to provide comfortable pumping rooms that are actually federally mandated, while other companies still try to buck the law.
Or, you may have heard about vanguard tech companies experimenting with voluntary work schedules. All of this feeds into that idea that when you make work a better place for people, you actually make your brand better — and this is something that no business leader can afford to ignore.
3. Value Intelligence
There is also a broad spectrum of ways that businesses operate when it comes to valuing and displaying knowledge and intelligence in a given field. Some of those businesses that have autocratic and hierarchical models prefer to hide their brainpower in their headquarters, where it’s all but invisible to outside observers. This can be good for stroking a CEO’s ego, but it really hurts a business.
On the other hand, enterprises that take the principle of meritocracy seriously are developing the best career professionals, while giving outsiders the impression that absolutely everyone in their offices knows what they’re talking about.
4. Don’t Be Afraid to Dream Big
Another mistake that some traditional businesses make is to cling too tightly to the tried-and-true paths that have been trodden by blue-chip dinosaurs for over a century. Leadership teams like to think that by tightly controlling growth and expansion and focusing only on the low-hanging fruit in their industries, that they’re playing it safe.
The wild success of many 21st-century startups shows a different picture entirely. It shows that if you’re not afraid to go after the client account that you want, you can often skip many levels of the classic business path, just by ignoring the way that everybody else is doing it, and just doing it your own way.
5. Create More Voluntary Opportunities
There’s an extreme obstacle that today’s businesses are facing. They’re operating in a cynical and jaded age, when people think of the work world as a ‘rat race,’ where there is a kind of ‘work fatigue’ setting in because of a dominant 20th century obsession with productivity.
Some of the best new companies are exploding this kind of obsolete idea by making work more of an elective thing. For instance, leaders replace some mandatory productivity hours with elective event hours, where workers can choose whether or not to stay at business locations the last couple of hours in a day and do something that may be totally unrelated to their jobs. In many cases, employees often choose to stay for at least some of this elective time, and that it really pays dividends for the overall perception of the employer.
6. Keep The Big Picture in View
Consultants and others often talk about ‘having a vision’ for a business, which is important. It’s also important to keep looking at whether or not the business is staying true to its vision.
In actual day-to-day operations, and as a business grows and expands over time, there’s the overwhelming tendency toward change. Change is okay, if it’s controlled by a team with a core focus on the company’s mission statement – otherwise, it can cause a business to kind of disintegrate.
Using state-of-the-art technologies like CRM tools and good common sense, human decision-makers can regularly evaluate whether the company is really staying true to its original purpose, or veering off into tangential territory.
7. Make Informed Decisions
There are also too many times where executive meeting sessions seem like guesswork, where some of the decisions that people make could have been based on throwing darts at a dart board.
To fix this, businesses can use customized technologies and detailed knowledge of core processes, i.e. sales, to stay informed about the accounts and methods that drive the business. With all of the facts in hand, it’s easier to make decisions that will work out well, rather than just winging it.
8. Make Top-Level Goals Clear to EVERYBODY
Another way to “life-hack” your business is to promote transparency from the top level down, and make sure that all employees have a better picture of why top management is doing what it’s doing.
To bring it back to the traditional 20th century business, oftentimes, there wasn’t a lot of attention paid to what the rank-and-file knew about product processes, advertising strategies, or the bottom line. Information was delivered on a need-to-know basis, and those who were actually producing for a company were often kept in the dark.
Nowadays, there’s more of an emphasis on showing people what’s being done so that they can all assist in the process, and more actively become brand ambassadors for their companies. The more information employees have, the more they can spread the word about what their companies are doing, and that can be good for the office as a whole. Learn more about the brand ambassadors idea from Forbes.com.
Although it might just seem like more work, this kind of internal evangelism doesn’t always require executives to be town criers standing in the public square. You can use tools like intranets and sophisticated dashboard technologies to get information out to teams in a more effective manner, without a lot of labor-intensive memo writing.
9. Stay Lean
Another imperative for top businesses is to keep from spreading themselves too thin.
There are those ways in which running in businesses like pruning a tree — you want to have enough resources in place to support your core operations well. Otherwise, excessive bloating or other problems really put pressure on the company, and eventually, everyone can feel it.
Instead, maintain an efficient business model so that you have enough to help your people and your processes thrive.
10. Keep Networking
Many of the top businesses in any industry are looking for the best ways to approach other businesses for relationships that generate synergy.
An average business clinging to the old ways of thinking might stop networking when it gets established, with executives claiming that “they already know what we do.”
Yes, people may be aware of your business, but they don’t know about the good you’re doing on a regular basis. Let them know, by developing vendor and partner relationships that don’t just help the company survive, but help it branch out to bigger audiences. Remember that these kinds of relationships can generate their own PR, and make a firm much more impressive.
Technologies like Stride CRM help companies reach these lofty goals, by helping human decision-makers to collect, interpret and spread the critical information that constitutes business intelligence — the data that’s going to drive change within a business. Take a look at what you can do to build the champions of tomorrow.