The Importance of Work Culture and Values to Your Small Business

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The Importance of the Work Culture and Values to Your Small Business —

It was likely a surprising turn of events for many in the Florida state capitol of Tallahassee when the president of Florida A&M University, James H. Ammons, submitted his resignation under duress for the hazing death of a marching band student last November.

Solomon Badger III, Chair, FAMU’s Board of Trustees, said that while he was saddened by the decision, “Given all that has transpired, it seems to be in the best interest of the University, and I applaud him for putting FAMU ahead of his personal goals.”

Ultimately, whether you are the president of a university or the president of a business, you are accountable for the environment and culture.

Personal Values Play Role in Company Culture

In my article, “How Company Culture Impacts Hiring: Recruiting Candidates that Fit the Work Environment,” I explain that culture is “what helps define the norms for accepted behavior within an organization and is the foundation for the values that employees are expected to emulate.”

In my last full-time human resources position in corporate America, the company engaged employees throughout the organization to create a vision, mission, and values program that included providing every employee with a laminated card bearing the organization’s eight values. Incorporated into programs throughout the company, such as performance management, these values included concepts like teamwork, community service, accountability, and bias toward action.

I remember distinctly during one company meeting that as the President of the company stood before the audience and finished his recount of what had transpired over the prior quarter, he ended by asking if anyone could recite all eight values without looking at their card. Only one person could. He rewarded her with a new one hundred dollar bill. Can you guess how many people soon after memorized the company values?

Whether your values are formally laminated on a card or are informally whispered in the hallways, your organization does have a culture built on the values that you instill.

Defining Your Startup Culture

Writing in the Forbes article, “Six Key Principles to Set Your Startup Culture,” contributor Martin Zwilling suggests that establishing the right values and culture early on in a new business are important to both customers and employees. Here are the important principles he shares:

  • Create the environment. Cultures naturally grow from the basic leadership, rules, values, and “other conditions” within an organization. You cannot “create culture” only establish the right kind of work environment.
  • You get what you give. You’ll only get out of your values what you put into them. Establish, introduce, and re-communicate them often. Additionally, treat your employees well and they will treat customers well.
  • Do the right things the right way. Define and support the proper values and behaviors and the proper actions will naturally follow.
  • Values + rewards = right behaviors. If you expect employees to behave in a specified manner, you must establish the company values and reward employees who act accordingly.
  • Values can lead to success. Establishing a shared value system ensures a company culture prepared to make tough decisions and guide you.


Perhaps President Ammons wasn’t aware of what was going on in all areas of his university. If that is the case, then that was his mistake. Don’t make the same one. Understand the importance of work culture and values to your small business.


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