I learned most of what I know about conducting business in the U.S through my partner, Arthur Cooper. When we started Optimum7 back in 2007, he had 30 years’ experience running successful businesses and managing teams. Some of Arthur’s teachings over the years have really stuck with me, and they were mainly focused on ethics and principles in business, which you can implement into your own team’s cultural values:
Be Ethical and Honest
Due to the nature of our consultation business, clients come to us looking for answers to resolve complex problems. Over the years, we have refined our value proposition to our clients, as our mission is to be an “indispensable resource for organizations.” This could only happen if we said what we meant, and meant what we said.
It’s incredibly important to be honest and direct with business associates and to set the right expectations, no matter what the project or the issue might be. Our track record with hundreds of satisfied clients who like us, respect us and trust us is proof that this mentality is essential for establishing a successful and scalable business model.
It’s hard to suggest instructions for this kind of approach since it should come from within; however, you should start by beginning to be transparent in all of your business dealings, regardless of what industry you’re in.
Build a Culture on Ethics and Honesty
Once I established my personal direction for how I would like to conduct my business, I then proceeded to prepare a guide for my staff. At the end of the day, I may not be involved with over 90 percent of the day-to-day operations that my 20-plus employees are handling, so my staff needs to be of a similar mindset when executing daily tasks for our clients.
I also have a 100 percent transparency approach at the workplace: we say what we mean and we mean what we say. Team members are empowered to challenge or question the actions of their supervisors within the confinement of logic. We also conduct anonymous reviews to ensure that we are all on the same page.
Set up weekly staff meetings to make sure that you are on the same page with your team. You should also incorporate your mission statement and culture into company gatherings and events.
Help Your Staff and People Grow
I’m a big believer of investing in people: I take personal responsibility in the well-being, comfort and happiness of my employees. I often encourage them to come and speak or consult with me in matters not related to Optimum7 or business. Ultimately, a team is as weak as its slowest member, so we challenge each other in getting better every day. That’s the primary reason that our team consists of innovative, confident and responsible individuals who are not afraid to speak their minds and create. Just as an example, almost 40 percent of new ideas for improved processes and executions come from the team members who have been with us for one year or less.
Take the time to build a training program and let your staff express their thoughts about how effective the training sessions are.
Offer Internal Hands-On Training
Helping my team members grow and improve has been a challenge, as it requires a lot of time and dedication. We have spent months building a company Wiki page and training processes to assist our colleagues without sacrificing quality in our day-to-day operations. You only have so many hours in the day, and every hour spent in training can affect your bottom line, but it has to be done for the future health and stability of your business.
We conduct weekly training sessions, staff meetings and creative sessions. These allocated time slots help our staff and interns to get a better and more intimate understanding of the technical consultation that we offer our clients.
You can start by setting up weekly meetings and creative sessions as well — this is the fastest way to initiate a learning and discussion environment to help grow your team. Make sure that you have a plan; do not just improvise on the training.
Sacrifice Your Time
Investing in people requires effort and sacrifice. I have spent countless hours reaching out to career service departments of universities, marketing and computer science professors to introduce an internship program that we have created. This internship takes a hands-on approach and teaches students real-life project executions and client interaction in marketing, branding, social media and coding.
When we interviewed college graduates for specific positions, we realized that there was a big gap between their educations and where they needed to be in the professional job marketplace in terms of experience and problem-solving skills. We wanted to give back by creating a program that helped students bridge this gap in three months or fewer. Eighty percent of our interns have found great jobs right after leaving Optimum7. Consider establishing this type of internship program in your company to offer students (or perhaps future employees) a valuable learning opportunity.
My business partner’s advice can be easily implemented into your company’s strategy, and by following these tips, you too can form an ethically-sound company culture and motivated, happy team.