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4 Keys for Creating a Winning Company Culture



Company Culture

Company culture is unique to each organization as its products or services. However, there are a few variables that should be key to creating a positive, engaging and motivating company culture for your team. Your culture sets the tone for your employees, and if it doesn’t line up with your goals, you’ll have a hard time being successful.

Be brutally honest and open in your communication.

Communication is critical in business. Be open with your employees—even those out in the field. If you keep them aware of what decisions you’re making and why you’ll keep them from randomly guessing or speculating.

Providing relevant information, seeking input when warranted and allowing them to understand what is being done and why prevents them from drawing incorrect conclusions and helps reduce rumors from being spread amongst your employees. It’s better to keep employees informed, so they don’t constantly worry or assume the worst. Employees would rather know what is happening and disagree with it than not have any idea what is going on. They’ll have more respect for your leadership and feel more invested in your company.

Also, avoid lending a sympathetic ear, and encourage your employees to do the same. If you don’t tell someone you disagree, they will assume you agree with what they are saying, which can do the rest of your team a disservice. Instead, direct them to talk to the right person. This can help prevent drama within your team. Remember that silence is acquiescence.

Don’t leave anything unmentioned.

Never assume anything and set clear, detailed expectations for every person’s job. At Penn Station, the franchisees who are the most successful engage everyone in their organization and have clear policies and procedures on everything from how to treat guests and coworkers to how to clean a station at the end of the night. Most everyone wants to understand their role and how they fit into the organization. Providing a blueprint for how specific tasks are to be performed helps reduce errors and helps your employees succeed, which ultimately leads to better employee retention.

Give each employee three key job duties.

It’s easy to get bogged down in the minutiae of a job, and that can lead to employees feeling overwhelmed. Further, most complicated tasks really have two or three key components, and everything else becomes a detail to those big-picture items. As Stephen Covey noted: always begin with the end in mind. To this end, and to help employees prioritize, they should be responsible for three main duties. Everything on their to-do list should fall under those three categories as a detail. If it doesn’t then reevaluate the three key tasks and goals.

Give employees plenty of room to execute those tasks, but make sure they know there is support behind them. Leaders should ask their employees a lot of good opened-ended questions—never yes or no questions—so they know how employees are doing, if they’re happy in their job and if they’re struggling with anything. Make sure you know what challenges your employees are facing so you can step in if needed. Often, no one understands the entire organization better than the leader. However, at the same time, your team has relevant information specific to their role that may be crucial to the organization’s overall goals. A great leader knows how to pull this relevant information from their team by asking the right questions.

Trust your people.

Empowering your employees only works if you trust them to complete their jobs and they trust you as well. Integrity is crucial in this process. If you say one thing and do another, you’ll never have a great organization with dedicated team members.

Trusting your employees means making an effort to see things from all sides and not just your perspective—and teaching your employees to do the same. When you understand what the other party wants, you’re better able to create win-win situations. Encouraging that as part of your company culture can lead to better relationships within your team and between your team and your clients and vendors. A win-lose situation might be good in the short term, but developing a culture of win-win in which both sides are happy, either employees or customers, allows an organization to grow, prosper and achieve maximum results.

Company culture can make or break a business, and it’s not always simple to build. Be consistent and put yourself in your employees’ shoes. By creating a culture of empowerment and open communication, you’re setting all of your employees up to succeed, which in turn helps your company succeed.

Craig Dunaway has been president of Penn Station since 1999. Before joining Penn Station Inc., Dunaway was a partner at the regional accounting firm of McCauley, Nicolas & Company, LLC in Jeffersonville, Indiana, where he had worked since 1982 in various staff and managerial positions. Dunaway has a bachelor’s degree in accounting from Indiana University and is still a licensed CPA. Dunaway formerly had ownership interests in a Papa John’s® franchisee that owned 11 stores, and he served as the secretary/treasurer for that Papa John’s® franchisee. In addition, he had ownership interests in Coastal Cheesesteaks, LLC (headquartered in Raleigh, North Carolina) until June 2011 and in Louisville Cheesesteaks, LLC (headquartered in Louisville, Kentucky) until January 2014, both of which are Penn Station franchisees. While a shareholder in those Penn Station franchisees, Dunaway served as secretary/treasurer. Penn Station was named one of the Best Franchises to Buy by Forbes in 2016 and 2018 and one of the Best Franchise Deals by QSR Magazine in 2016 and 2017.