Dec 14, 2021
How to Build a Company That Lasts
There are a ton of ways to go about building a business. Some people start with a vision, others with their product, and others go about finding problems they can create solutions for.
In the book Built To Last by Jim Collins and Jerry Porras, they emphasize that hiring the right talent and cultivating a rich culture is key to growth and a lasting company. For the book, visionary companies were observed and compared to their respective top competitors over a six-year period. The result is a blueprint of business success that offers wisdom for business owners and leaders up until today and beyond.
In today’s blog, we dive into the impact of hiring reliable talent and the factors that surround it, for leaders invested in learning about how to build a company that lasts
Four Qualities of a Visionary Company’s Culture
As smaller businesses start to scale, preserving the culture of a microbusiness becomes a concern during the introduction of a more complex structure and multiple levels of responsibility. The authors observed three common practices from the observed visionary companies. Adding another invaluable asset from the book, here are the four components of a visionary company’s culture.
1. The Core Ideology
A visionary company is an organization that, guided by its vision, becomes a center of innovation for its industry. They are able to recreate themselves to serve their market, increase their market share, and sustain the business without changing their primary purpose or goal.
A common observation in visionary companies is the ability to nurture employees who strongly believe in the core ideology. Merck’s purpose is “to preserve and improve human life,” while its core values revolved around social responsibility, excellence, science-based innovation among others.
A company’s core ideology guides all of its activities. It’s the combination of its core values and purpose, becoming a fundamental shaping force for the entire organization. This is how “The Magic of Walt Disney” comes to life, and how Merck approaches and prioritizes saving people’s lives through their products and services.
2. Indoctrination as a Process
The book resulted in a discovery that “visionary” is not associated with being soft and undisciplined. In fact, clarity of vision makes it easier to create profound guidelines on how to build a company. This manifests in the indoctrination of new hires for a company.
Visionary companies treat hiring and training as a process of indoctrination for their new members. As for Nordstrom, ensuring that everyone is aligned with the company allows for more on-the-job autonomy. When people know why they need to do something for the company, they are able to find the best way for them, individually, to contribute to the organization.
3. Tightness of Fit
In the book, IBM presented a great example of how a candidate’s tightness of fit can be pursued as a goal. Starting from the interview, candidates are told that the business will have its approach to doing things, and if one does not agree with it, it’s best for them to find another place.
Similarly, an account from a former Nordstrom employee narrates how it is a great place to work if you fit in, but signs of struggle may mean that you will have to flourish someplace else.
How well one fits in is signaled by how rewarded they are by systems implemented to create flagbearers for a company’s ideologies. If efforts aligned with ideologies are recognized within a company, it creates a system that rewards high compatibility and filters out those unable to fit in.
Elitism, as observed and presented by the proponents of the research, comes from an inherent sense of pride for belonging to the organization. Rather than looking down on those who do not fit into the company, it simply stems from being happy with the drive one gets from integrating themselves into the company.
As for IBM, this gave its leader the idea to rename themselves from Computer Tabulating Recording Company to The International Business Machines Corporation in 1989.
A sense of belonging stemming from proper indoctrination allows employees to feel special just by being part of a company. This instills in them a great sense of value for their contribution to the organization’s collective success.
Institutionalizing Culture with Tangible Practices
There are a lot of moving parts involved in establishing a culture. Much more when the goal is to preserve it while keeping progress stimulated at all times. Tangible practices help in the constant application of corporate values throughout the organization as time goes by.
In societies, traditions and norms preserve a culture. For companies, organizational culture is fostered and institutionalized through tangible practices. Here are a few ways to build that mechanism for a company.
New hire orientations are common in most sizable organizations. This is where new hires are introduced to a company’s goals and protocols en masse. Mission and vision statements are always part of it, but a well-prepared orientation also includes discussing the relationship between practical content and ideology.
Make sure your orientation process welcomes new hires into the organization and indoctrinates them by discussing the history, norms, values, and plans of the company.
2. Internal Learning Resource
Building an internal database of resources helps keep everyone in line as to how members of the organizations should deal with all possible situations. Curating a knowledge base means everyone has access to the same information.
Moreover, using these resources for additional training and regular upskill sessions makes sure that everyone grows in a direction that is with and for the company’s progress. Giving access to a learning resource also helps employees feel more united towards a common goal and more motivated and excited to do their work.
Socializing amongst employees is also an important contributor to fostering corporate culture. Walkthroughs and immersive demonstrations of the daily workflow by new peers and immediate supervisors are great ways to get new hires immediately socialized with the existing members.
Considering the geographical location and other common denominators outside of work also helps create more opportunities for socialization among employees.
4. Memorialization And Celebration Of Great Work
Commemorating unique deeds also helps in providing solid examples of the corporate culture. Service-oriented companies typically have stories of aspirational customer service experiences. These can create an oral tradition of “heroism” that inspires others. Monuments and statues that commemorate a noteworthy person (usually the founder) are also part of this.
On a smaller scale, this can be seen in employee-of-the-month awards and annual recognition of efforts. Celebrating exemplary behavior also helps establish a benchmark of performance by showing people the possibility of what they can achieve within the company.
5. In-Group Language
Internal jargon also helps reinforce corporate culture. Disneyland language translates “employees” into “cast members”, while Nordstrom uses “Nordie.” This can also apply to jobs and processes.
Tight-knit social circles have inside jokes and unique nicknames that reinforce a sense of belonging to a unique group. The same works with companies. Using unique language on a daily basis and on the job constantly strengthens the sense of belonging to a unique, elite group.
Affirmations classically come in the form of hymns, pledges, or cheers. Created with the core philosophy in mind, these can contribute to the personal commitment of employees to a company.
Nowadays, hashtags are the norm for employees. This helps them (and customers, too!) identify with an organization.
7. Tight Screening Process
A tight screening process doesn’t mean taking too much time to hire someone. Instead, this means creating a system for the probationary period of new hires that helps them and the company discover if they’re a great fit for each other.
Some employees may find a company’s culture enticing at first, then struggle to keep up in the first six to twelve months. A tight screening process means implementing a system that allows those who can adapt and commit to flourish. It also sets the expectation that the adverse means their unique qualities will be better appreciated someplace else.
8. The Benefits Program
Another mechanism that helps companies nurture their culture-bound employees is a progressive benefits program. In recent years, benefits packages have evolved to include systems to earn paid time off, flexible work schedules, physical and mental wellness support, and on-site amenities.
These factors contribute to retaining great, ideologically-aligned employees. It works as a reciprocation of their dedication to the company’s progress by similarly offering them ways to enhance their quality of life beyond just paying them.
9. Tangible And Visible Rewards
Rewards programs not only help with retaining culture-compliant employees but also reinforce consistent and outstanding compliance to the company’s ideologies. A reward system centered around the company’s core values inspires employees to be more consistent with the core philosophy. Awards, bonuses, and public recognition are good practices of reinforcing efforts consistent with the company vision.
10. Tolerance For Honest Mistakes
Visionary companies are profound when it comes to adhering to their core values. This doesn’t mean they don’t have room for errors. In fact, visionary companies in the book have been observed to have room for honest mistakes.
Mistakes are natural, and as such, should be expected of humans, even at work. What’s important for founders is to determine which actions are allowable and which ones are not tolerable. On the flipside of tangible rewards should also be firm penalties. This helps the end goal of filtering out those who fit well into the company’s culture and trajectory of growth.
11. Buy-In Mechanism
Buy-in mechanisms are simple. Having a system that allows employees to buy shares also increases their commitment to the company’s welfare. Allowing employees to further capitalize on the company’s success reinforces their position as stakeholders of the company’s welfare.
This binds them closer to the company and increases their dedication to the work they contribute.
12. The Office Layout
The layout of your plant or office matters in preserving your company’s culture. Transparency and accountability can be furthered with open space layouts while acknowledging the need for recreation can nurture creativity and empower autonomy.
A more popular example is the open-door policy where doors are literally kept open, signaling that anyone can come in for help at any time. It also reinforces the tradition of keeping communication lines open within an organization.
In today’s largely remote work environment, this can still be put into practice through regularly scheduled check-ins and establishing communication guidelines for collaborations and workplace socialization. Some remote teams work while on a call the whole time, while others keep their lines open at all times for each other.
13. Constant Use Of Internal Language
Using internal language may be easy if it’s work-related. However, tying that practical approach into a more ideological manner applies elsewhere.
Whenever possible, it’s important to use words related to the company’s ideologies. This is very easy during meetings where efforts and strategies can be appropriated into respective philosophies. It’s also important for those in a position of leadership to do this as much as they can. Consistent use of internal language reinforces the meaning behind a company’s core philosophies and clarifies which actions align with them.
Helping Build Companies That Last: The Virtudesk Family
Here at Virtudesk, we recognize the importance of ensuring that our clients get exactly the help that they need.
Our core philosophies revolve around helping and empowering people. We provide our clients with virtual assistants to help them run and grow their businesses. At the same time, we empower our virtual assistants by providing them with supplementary training. These two objectives turn into our pursuit to help others leverage their time and resources with delegation and automation.
As for our core values, we rely on working with integrity, respect, efficiency, and consistency. This is communicated to our employees and our clients, setting their expectations on what values are behind the systems and tools we empower their collaboration with. It is through that practice that we keep our core values fundamental to all the services we provide.
At the center of what we do is providing help. Our every action is aimed at providing something helpful to someone. It could be something educational for clients and prospects, assisting a teammate, or supporting our pool of talents.
To provide our clients with the best possible assistance, we conduct a rigorous screening program. Due to the nature of their jobs, we make sure our virtual assistants are great communicators with at least six months of experience working at a contact center.
On top of a specially designed CRM that breaks down the hiring and training process into phases, we also conduct personality assessments (such as the DISC Assessment) to create better recommendations for our clients.
We’ve designed our vetting process to provide help to our clients immediately, even before they hire a virtual assistant. By ensuring that our talent is screened and equipped with the right knowledge and skills, we help our clients find the right virtual assistant for them faster compared to doing it on their own.
Our Training Process
Our training process is designed to provide the same level of help to our clients. We train to be the best. Our multi-day program helps our virtual assistants understand common tech, skills, and demands from clients. During their training days, they are familiarized with new information and upskilled to communicate better, given the remote nature of the work.
Coaches stay and assist our virtual assistants even after training is over. We also have Virtudesk Academy to provide our employees with a curated learning experience that will progress their careers as virtual assistants.
Our philosophies have guided us into establishing a family-oriented culture within the company. We run virtual support groups for our virtual assistants and our clients. There, anyone can ask any question, whether work-related or just life or even financial advice. The group also extends its helping hand to aspiring candidates and prospects looking for a service provider.
Working remotely, some of our colleagues may feel isolated, and so we also make sure to check in on them frequently. Our team managers and coaches are always available for our clients when they need help. Just like family, we also encourage open communication among ourselves and associates to understand unique circumstances and give it the attention it deserves.
More than that, we make sure no one is left behind. We haven’t let anyone go due to the pandemic. Instead of letting our clients spiral with the pandemic panic, we helped them find solid ground in the digitization of the workplace. We’ve even helped rebuild our people’s homes during typhoons. Also, we make it a point to celebrate big and small wins, one way or another.
Our company may operate remotely, as a global service provider, but we strive to make our family feel at home with each other, even virtually.
We take pride in empowering businesses to leverage delegation and automation for success and growth. This is our purpose and we make sure that everyone in the company understands that and feels the same way.
In our journey of helping others build companies that create legacies, we have started to build our own. Doing what we do, evolving with client demands while preserving our philosophy of helping others, has helped us scale fast enough to be warranted a position in the INC 5000 list this year. This achievement is one of our greatest validations so far, and we couldn’t be more proud of our Virtudesk family.
Executing Your Vision
Every entrepreneur’s journey to building a company is uniquely theirs. In the book by Collins and Porras, there’s an emphasis on the dynamic of preserving core philosophies while constantly stimulating progress.
A visionary company evolves, but its core values guide it in consistently providing value to its customers. Executing a vision needs a high level of profoundness as to how a brand will conduct itself at all times, at all costs. This ideological control could lead to what the authors dubbed as a “cult-like” culture.
That isn’t to say that your organization has to be a cult to be successful. It simply means that driven and dedicated people are one of the secrets of how to build a company successfully.
With the workforce globalization furthered by remote working conditions, virtual assistants have become part of the new normal for business success. If you’d like to try scaling with driven and dedicated remote employees, Virtudesk offers professional services from highly-trained virtual assistants. Some of our clients have had their VAs for years now, you can watch their testimonials here.
If you want to try executing your vision with virtual assistants, fill out this form and one of our Consultants will get in touch with you.
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