As a small business owner, and advisor to other SMEs I get the chance to regularly check in on what is happening in the office and get to talk to many staff. Not surprisingly, generating revenue growth and financial survival is the highest priority. However, for many SMEs a closely linked priority involves how staff feel working for the family business. If your staff morale is low inevitably the financial performance will be a struggle. Because of this it is often worth while considering if your family business has a positive workplace culture.

Typically the family business owner is focussed on the big picture, covering sales and marketing programs and keeping clients happy. In this environment is often very easy to be so focussed on the tasks to grow and build your business, that the day to day details of the workplace culture and how your staff feel can be overlooked.

Ask yourself “Do your staff like coming to work each day, feel energised and valued for their contributions, and, perhaps most importantly, committed to building your business just like you?”

Creating a positive workplace culture in your family business

The business workplace culture matters, perhaps even more so than other things like marketing, IT and salary packages because without a thriving workplace culture, the overall goals of the family business will be undermined. Unfortunately, I have seen highly paid people who are constantly unhappy about this or that who impact on the working environment and culture for others in the team.

As the CEO what are you doing today to improve your workplace culture? A positive workplace culture values employee engagement. From the top down, engagement, communication, openness is encouraged. By fostering informal interactions, some daily, for the team to check in and communicate with each other will help this process significantly. To hear good news, and bad, to engage with other parts of the business are all defining moments in the workplace.

A positive workplace culture can create high energy workplaces. As the CEO are your staff able to be open in their communication at all levels in the business, both negative and positive? Are you open with them? These days your staff spend more time at work than at home, therefore creating a workplace where people enjoy coming too is critical to the culture and attitudes of the team. Is your office one of those walled workplaces? You know the type where the boss’s office is large and walled off from the workforce. In 2017 the best of breed designed office layouts have removed walls, provide a limited number of offices and meeting rooms for a private conversation. Communication is welcomed, and encouraged, from the top down.

Common areas also work very well to build a positive workplace culture. These areas provide a safe place where the staff can have a break, with quality down time, even for meetings and catch-ups. Having a relaxed environment fosters productivity and creativity, and demonstrates to staff that you as the CEO are giving trust and belief in your team, that they do not have to be sitting at a desk in front of a computer to get things done.

The alternative is to have a poor workplace culture where you have an environment that is only going to have your employees not wanting to come to work. They are not motivated to do the best for you even if they are paid well, sick days will often increase, the quality of work suffers and your customers experience will almost certainly be affected. It doesn’t even matter if your employees love your products, if they hate working for you it will be very hard to build a winning team.

As a small business owner, it is critical you think about the type of workplace culture you have created. Do your employees like coming to work? You also need to be aware that there are many other factors that can impact on the workplace including discrimination, bullying, poor safety practises in workplace just to name a few. Ultimately as the SME business owner it is your responsibility to make sure your staff feel safe, encouraged and respected?

When I am working with a client where there is higher than normal staff turnover, again many of the conversations are about poor staff attitudes. In these situations I cannot help but think when was the last time the client/CEO had genuine one on one talks with their staff? Communication within a high performance team is always rated very highly by all involved. However, too often, improving poor communication is given to the answer about what changes you would like to see in the office and with the boss? To be a successful family business your staff should be encouraged to speak freely, that it is not a test of their loyalty if they provide a critical observation and it will not be held against them. By demonstrating leadership and showing respect you may be very pleasantly surprised by the response you get.

All family businesses will go through difficult patches as they grow and thrive. It is in these times that having a great workplace culture to fall back on will help you get through. On the other hand if the workplace culture is poor to start with then the family business may even struggle to survive. The type of workplace culture you operate can also have a dramatic impact on the exit value you can achieve when it is time to sell.

As the CEO and leader of your family business it is time to recognise that your most valuable assets in the business go up and down in the lift every day. It is time to make the effort to build a business where everyone enjoys being a part of the success!

Do you have a positive workplace culture in your family business?
If this blog has inspired you to do something about your workplace culture we would love to talk with you about your detailed plans.

Call me on 0401 767 639 or send an email to

Good luck with building a winning team and a powerhouse workplace culture.

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