Building Company Culture: It’s a Lot Like Writing Software

We’re in the process of making major updates to our software here at Go iLawn / Go iPave (you heard it here first). And although I’m really excited to show our new software to our customers (Come see us at GIE+EXPO in BOOTH #9055), it’s also got me thinking that writing software is a lot like building your company’s culture.

Today’s Decisions = Tomorrow’s Limits

With software development, every decision you make today gets literally “written in” to your product. You decide things now, based on the best information you have available, and you have to live with those decisions for the long term.

It’s largely the same with your company culture. You’re building it now, and you’ll be living with it for years to come. Like software, your culture can be changed, but it takes time, money and effort.

Be Deliberate

Software development is time-consuming, and it’s expensive. So we take each decision very seriously. We also go to great lengths to think through the side effects of each choice we make. Companies aren’t always so cautious and deliberate about how their company cultures develop… But they should be.

A Moving Target

The challenge is that “culture” isn’t something you just write once and have forever; it’s built over time and everything you do, day after day, contributes to it.

Some parts of your company culture are deliberate; they’re built through conscious decisions you’ve made: What kinds of work do you do? Who is your customer? What kinds of people do you hire? What kinds of equipment do you use? Do you buy, or do you lease?

Other parts of your company culture are more subtle and just sort of “happen” without you deciding: Is your workplace a “fun” place to work, or is it more serious? Do you value individual performance most or is team performance more important? Are you consistent in making decisions, or is each decision a one-off? Is your culture more directive or more collaborative?

Resistance To Change

In the same way that an error in judgement now can get written in to your source code for your software, a bad decision in how you handle something else in your business can get encoded in your company culture and become even harder to change later.

And yet, as companies grow, their cultures simply have to change, or else they can’t meet the challenges of supporting their own success.

One example is companies that strictly operate on a self-funded model and never learn to leverage the multiplied power of extensive lines of credit. Their debt-free culture reduces risk and is generally a good thing until it prevents them from exploiting market opportunities that could have enabled faster growth.

Another example is companies who limit the kinds of employees they’ll hire. With the labor market tight and only getting tighter, you’re going to have trouble building a workforce of ideal employees. If your culture is flexible, you can supplement your ‘core’ workforce with part time or seasonal employees or with workers who can only meet part of your “Ideal” requirements.

A final example I’ve seen is with companies who start small with one driven entrepreneur who builds a company through their own passion and effort. This kind of company culture grows around one “boss” who makes all the decisions. There is a single point of control for EVERYTHING, and, if the company is very successful, it eventually grows bigger than one person can effectively manage. Yet lots of businesses stall out at this point because they can’t change their culture to bring in outside expertise, delegate more responsibility, and enable more growth.

Be Flexible & Embrace Change

So as a company’s culture evolves, its leaders should monitor it and try to consciously build their ideal culture. And the best cultures will be flexible enough to adapt to changing conditions.

Be Flexible. That’s what we’re doing with our new software, and it’s what we recommend any company should do with their culture… And Embrace Change.

~ The Go iLawn/Go iPave Team

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