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Building Your Perfect Company Culture: Insider Advice for Self-Storage Owners

By Don Clauson Comments
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As your culture develops, you’ll find more opportunities to question and test. This is important because if the values you choose to espouse aren’t deeply rooted in reality, your culture will lack authenticity. This will be apparent to team members and those looking in from the outside, especially customers. Take the time to identify values that come from your team, as this will be the foundation for your culture.

Build Deliberately

Once you’ve identified your company’s core values, the real fun begins. You can talk and write company-wide e-mails about culture, but if you aren’t acting on it every day, it doesn’t carry much weight.

We found our goals and values were better met by a distributed management structure rather than the traditional hierarchy-based structure in which we started. This helped develop our culture by empowering our team to make decisions from the bottom up, allowing those with firsthand knowledge of a situation to make their voice heard regardless of position. Some of our best ideas have come from the craziest places because we listened to every member of our team and incorporated what we heard.

Those close to me will tell you I’m not a patient person. At one point, it felt like we were trying to do too much by committee. But you can really never do too much by committee. You just have to have the commitment to do this the better, more difficult way.

People want to be heard and want to know that you’ve considered their point of view. Fostering an environment of open and honest communication helped us identify team members who were responsive to our culture. These employees have become some of our biggest advocates.

This process has taken time and effort, but the return has been invaluable. We have staff who want to hit their goals, not purely for a bonus of financial incentive, but because they’re proud and believe in the cause. Money is nice and people should be rewarded for their work, but pride and fulfillment lead to higher job satisfaction and retention.

Find Help Along the Way

Developing your company culture won’t happen in a vacuum, nor should it. As your experience grows, it’s likely you’ll meet people and encounter ideas that will be beneficial to you and your team.

This happened to me during the summer of 2012. I was attending a seminar at an industry tradeshow. Presented by motivational speaker Jenn Lim, the topic was the book, “Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion, and Purpose,” by Tony Hsieh, CEO of online retailer Zappos. Lim’s presentation caused me to have an epiphany: Why couldn’t our company grow into something that not only makes money but changes people’s lives for the better?

Not long after this seminar, we were fortunate enough to find the book, “Fish! A Remarkable Way to Boost Morale and Improve Results,” by Stephen C. Lundin, Harry Paul and John Christensen. It tells the story of Mary Jane, a supervisor at a financial-services company, who’s put in charge of the most underperforming department. Faced with a toxic company culture as well as problems at home, she was at first distraught and convinced she would fail and lose her job. Then, during a walk-through of Seattle’s Pike Place Fish Market, she met a fishmonger who taught her how to create a culture of high morale and performance despite negative circumstances.


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