How to maintain your culture as you grow

As recruiters, we find ourselves talking a lot about company culture. Businesses are keen to hire people who will be a good cultural ‘fit' and candidates want to find the right culture to work in.

The truth is that to hit the right notes culturally, a business needs to have a strong set of core values. These are what you, as a business, stand for and stand by, no matter what. They need to be emotive and inspiring but also clear and explicit - what does it really mean to live by each of these values? If you say you're caring, then what does that look like day to day, when you're enjoying a period of growth but also when the chips are down?

Having this strategic foundation to the business creates a commonality that underpins every hire and every team. It allows you to hire the same sorts of people who buy into these values with you, while still giving you the flexibility to have different ‘cultures' across the different teams to reflect the way they need to work.

You may start out with just one sales guy, one HR person, one IT person, all of whom fit with your ‘culture'. As you grow, however, you'll need more people across all disciplines. And while you'll want people with similar beliefs, culturally these teams need the freedom to function in their own way. Have you ever seen an IT team with the same culture as a sales team, for example?

Without core values, external factors will unseat your culture and your business

External factors too will impact how you need to run your business and therefore the business' day-to-day culture. You'll need to look at the economic climate and decide what kind of culture you need to have at that time. You'll probably find you end up with a culture for recession and one for when you're growing and succeeding. With your core values in place, however, you will still have the consistency that means your employees will stick with you as you make the tactical changes needed to survive a rough patch or capitalise on a growth period. They have, after all, bought into your long term strategic values.

Yes, there are companies who can enjoy a more consistent culture, no matter what the economic situation, but these are the big guys. Big companies have the luxury of being able to maintain a culture because they have the money. It's easy to have a consistent way of life when you have money – this is as true of people as it is about businesses.

Culture also depends on where you are in the business lifecycle. The culture at a company when it's a start up is likely to be quite different to what the culture is like 20 years down the line. But the core values can very much stand the test of time, no matter how old, big or successful your business is. It's worth, therefore, getting the core values straight right from the start and hiring people based on these, so that you can grow with consistent ideals, no matter what the world throws at you.