If your business is growing, here are some things to keep in mind about building company culture
You started your business. You’ve been delegating more and more work to contractors. You’ve secured some funding and are going to need a bigger team to get you where you want to be. As you hire your core team, you’ll be focused on recruiting, operations, and onboarding. While juggling all of that, intentionally focusing on your company culture could fall by the wayside. But there is no better time than now to start your business with an eye to creating a work environment and ethos that is Black-centric from the ground up.
If you follow the start-up world, you may be hardwired to use dominant corporate culture as a reference or template. Aht aht. Belief, trust, and authenticity are the ingredients that are going to propel your brand, so that’s what you need as a foundation for growth. Let’s remind ourselves: Black people haven’t exactly been thriving in startups. None of that was built for us.
There are several basic “key culture indicators” that entrepreneurs rely on, and for good reason. They are the ingredients to happy, productive people aligned with your mission. Those key culture indicators for us, though, might look a little different.
In some ways the idea of intentionally creating a culture is a bit ironic. We create culture just through our being and expression. And “for the culture” isn’t just a marketing slogan. When we do something for the culture, we’re acting in the interest of our people collectively.
A good place to start is to draw from the seven principles of Kwanzaa: unity, self-determination, collective responsibility, purpose, creativity, faith, and of course cooperative economics. Reflect on the wisdom shared by elders — grandparents, uncles, aunties and grandmas, frats and sorors. Research and read seminal works by liberation leaders throughout history. All of this will help ground you in shaping a Black-centric company culture.
White-owned companies and startups tend to consider Black people as a monolith. That’s why we see so many companies reflexively build partnerships with celebrities and athletes. They don’t understand the true diversity of Black America, and that is a competitive advantage for you as an entrepreneur. We know that every Black person is different. As you bring on new people, welcome people and let them know that they are free to bring their uniquely Black perspectives.
Invest in productivity tools
Your productivity tools allow employees to be more efficient and collaborative. Take into consideration that Black people use technology, especially social and interactive technology, very differently from other groups. We are more mobile-focused, so applications that perform well on mobile platforms are a must. Let employees experiment with up-and-coming tools. While thinking about the best platforms to keep your growing team connected, consider trying out applications developed by Black founders, like Calendly – and finding others by following the rapidly growing Black tech landscape.
Whether you talk hood, talk good, or flip back and forth, your employees should know they don’t have to replicate white work culture. Black people, especially Black women, have a greater tendency to be more direct and to the point. We also bring up the stuff that no one wants to talk about. Many Black people have experienced repercussions at work for how they communicate compared to their peers. As you grow a Black business, your corporate communication will take on a new look and feel. Let strong voices be heard while holding space for the quiet ones as well.
Creating a culture of belonging is something that mainstream corporate America strives to do. That’s something that comes very naturally to Black Americans. Focusing on our diverse but collective values, write it down, share it, and put it into practice every day, and use it as a north star while growing your business.