HR · 13 September 2018

How can micro businesses set the right tone for company culture from the start?

Alex Currie is HR director at GoCompare

Following the publication of Real Business and Breathe HR’s SME Culture Leaders list, we asked the expert panel of judges what approach micro business owners should take to achieve the ultimate company culture.

Zoe Jervier, talent partner at EQT Ventures

Company culture in a very small business is essentially the founder who acts as the lynchpin.

It’s important for founders to be highly self-aware of the values and norms on display, most importantly those which come from their own actions – they’re always on stage and what they do (or don’t do) becomes the culture.

Good founders will seek feedback and discussion around the culture to ensure it constantly evolves with the team and business.

Chris Dyer, founder and CEO of PeopleG2

The good news is, the smallest companies have the shortest line between two points: the owner/CEO, and the rest of the staff. Culture flows from the values demonstrated by the business leader. Once these are spelled out, the person at the top should request and receive buy-in from all employees, so that everyone is on board and moving in the same direction.

After all, great culture attracts great people. By “great,” I mean that, yes, they are outstanding at performing their jobs, but beyond that, they should also serve the culture. The nature of culture, while complex, is actually a bonus that helps companies perpetuate a positive workplace atmosphere.

People who believe in the organisation’s mission, vision and values work in concert with them. So, recruiting and on-boarding new staff is important.



Micro business lessons from the SME Culture Leaders: Start as you mean to go on

How can the ultimate office culture be achieved, and do you really know what makes your staff tick?


Alex Currie, HR director at GoCompare

When you are in the throws of starting up or still trying to make a profit, salaries are not necessarily the most competitive.

Having a culture that is unique to your business is something a little bit special and can almost certainly swing a candidate in your favour.

Start by setting some guiding principles about your values and purpose as a micro business. Be clear and engage the team on why it is important. Within smaller organisations, culture is hugely important.

Also, try to understand what it means to work for your organisation. What behaviours are expected? Link this to how you treat customers, reward against it and you are on to a pretty good start at creating your own culture.

Jonathan Richards, founder and CEO of breatheHR

Even if you only employ two people, a culture will manifest itself. And, as management professor Edgar Schein once said, it will become apparent in how your business addresses three things.

The first is “artefacts” – the visible manifestations of the organisation such as dress, office and value statements. Next comes beliefs and values, followed by basic underlying assumptions – unspoken, taken for granted and framing parameters.

In a way, none of the above will hold strong or true if you don’t take a conscious effort to listen to your people, understand them and what they want, rather than focusing on how you can manifest your company culture in objects.

Real Business will continue to explore this topic in more detail, with in-depth discussions with judges and analysis of the top culture trends from this year’s Culture Leaders initiative

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Shané Schutte is the deputy editor of Real Business, with a particular specialism in employment and business law, human resources, information technology and sales/marketing.

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