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Group Sky SmallBusiness planning needs to start somewhere, and I think it should start with writing a culture description.  I debated between writing a Mission Statement or a Culture Statement. I chose to start with the Culture Statement because it is a statement about “who” your business is, or perhaps “who” you want your business to be. A Mission Statement is about “what” your business wants to accomplish. I simply decided that in business, as in life, “who” trumps “what” almost every time.

Webster’s definition of culture: “The set of shared attitudes, values, goals, and practices that characterizes an institution or organization.”  You and your team are going to spend a lot of time in this business, don’t let the culture be an accident. Why would you allow something so vital  as your attitudes, values, goals and practices “just happen”?

Why does a culture statement need to be written? My experience is that we are all a bit unstable, are not the clearest communicators, and suffer from short term amnesia. That means if we have an idea or goal in our mind only, that idea or goal is going to change based on our mood, circumstances and how well we remember our previous thoughts. Perhaps even more important than remembering our previous thoughts is remembering why we thought them. On the other hand, when we put something in writing we end up making it organized and more clear. The written statement also holds us accountable to it and makes us think before we change it. Lastly, we can simply hand the people we work with the statement and we are all at least reading from the “same page”.

So lets get started!

Going forward from here is rather simple. Choose each part of the definition and explain what you want your organization to be. The hard part is being clear enough. Be so descriptive that you can “see” your business functioning and your team interacting. Make it alive, almost like a painting. I’ve seen people actually give examples or tell stories, and that is very effective. This is not the place for an intellectual business format complete with white shirts and perfect ties under 3 piece suits. No, this is what happens at the water cooler, or in the breakroom, or at the bar the team goes to after work.

  • Attitude is NOT everything – but it is the Difference Maker. There is a very short book by John Maxwell called Attitude 101. It is GREAT and everyone should read it…in the third grade and every year thereafter. Make it clear what is a great attitude, and what is an unacceptable attitude.
  • Your Values Define You – define them now. You can’t assume your organization will have the values you have. As a matter of fact, if you don’t write them down, you likely aren’t really sure what your values are.
  • Goals – You can’t keep your eye on the ball if you don’t know what “the ball” is. These can change over time, unless you make this your Mission Statement. Some people think that is redundant, and a mission is different than a goal, but either will work here.
  • Practices – Define How Things Get Done – define them carefully. This is the “how” of your organization and these will need to change over time. Processes change with technology, regulation, and goals. Try to keep them “high level”, but I don’t think they can be effective if they are so high level that they don’t need to be changed.

The Preferred Insurance Center Culture Statement

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