Creating a company culture
Every company has its own culture, its own vision and values. Typically this vision comes from the company founders and leaders.
“Company culture is something that is pre-existing in your company’s genetic code; it’s not something that employees bring with them,” writes William Craig at Forbes.com (“What is company culture, and how do you change it?”). “In fact, a company with just one employee — a company with no employees, if we’re being honest — still has a culture.”
He adds that company leaders “seek out those individuals who they feel would be a good match with their existing vision for the company.”
On page 28 of this issue, you’ll read about Dean Allen and David Allen, brothers who run Seattle-based McKinstry Co., Plumbing & Mechanical’s 2015 Mechanical Contractor of the Year. They created a corporate culture of innovation and sustainability. Employees are encouraged to come up with new ideas through discussion and socializing with one another, as well as people from groups housed in the company’s Innovation Center.
A 20,000-sq.-ft. commons area was built in the middle of the company’s Seattle campus for this purpose and includes basketball courts, fitness facilities, a cafeteria, deli and eating area.
McKinstry also is committed to sustainability and preserving the environment for its employees and customers. Along with energy-efficient and water-conserving systems installed in its buildings, the company has electric-powered loaner cars, van pools, bike racks and company-paid public transportation passes. It has on-site compost collection and recycling programs.
What is your company culture? You may not have the same vision the Allens have, but you do have an idea of what you want your company to be.
For many years, Plumbing & Mechanical took nominations for its Best Contractor to Work For contest. We were looking for companies with a culture of employee engagement and satisfaction, where people looked forward to go to work.
These companies include: Black Diamond Plumbing of Crystal Lake, Ill.; B & I Contractors of Fort Myers, Fla.; RKS Plumbing & Mechanical in Phoenix; Midwest Mechanical Contractors in Kansas City, Mo.; AP Plumbing in Rochester, N.Y.; My Plumber Heating and Cooling in Manassas, Va.; Applewood Plumbing Heating & Electric of Denver; and CK Mechanical, Plumbing & Heating of Mills, Wyo.
These companies create cultures where employees are respected and recognized for their work. I’ve lost track of how many company owners and leaders have told me over the years that their people are their biggest asset. The companies deemed Best Contractor to Work For embody that spirit and make sure their employees know they are appreciated and valued members of the team.
If you’re not sure what your culture has become, Craig suggests taking a step back and looking for symptoms of a healthy or unhealthy culture — how your employees act while at work and common behaviors, whether good or bad. “Knowing how your employees are reacting to what you’re building is tremendously important if you want your company to thrive,” he says.
Two things he discusses that I believe are critically important for plumbing and mechanical contractors are providing an environment of trust and continued learning.
Keeping technicians trained is a critical aspect of a contractor’s business, but it’s equally important for office staff, customer service reps, dispatchers and managers.
“Trust is absolutely critical in the workplace,” Craig notes. “Making trust a company value falls squarely to you as a business owner.”
I would add that trusting your employees to do their jobs well is part of the equation. If you’ve given them the right tools, the right training and the right support, your employees will perform their jobs with professionalism and pride. I’m not suggesting you don’t keep track of what’s going on with employees, but trust that they know what they’re doing. If they don’t, it means the tools, training or support may not be sufficient.
Company culture is just as important as a paycheck, Craig says, although many people have to take jobs where they can find them. “One of our jobs as business owners is to make somebody’s third-choice feel like a place they want to be,” he explains. “Happiness may ultimately come from within, but job satisfaction begins with job creators caring about the people in their charge.”
Ultimately, you want to create a company culture that cultivates productive and satisfied employees who will stay with you.