Company culture is vital to success in business as mission. In BAM we ‘show people around the Kingdom, and introduce them to the King’, as one practitioner expressed. Therefore, an important goal of a BAM company is to establish a ‘Kingdom of God’ culture in relationships and the business environment – influencing for God and for good inside the company and in the wider community, among all stakeholders.
Secularisation and mission-drift are a very real threats to a BAM business as it grows larger. The faster a company grows, the greater the threat of culture dilution. The question of how to maintain and strengthen your company culture is something to seriously think about as you prepare to grow as a BAM company.
The Belief Tree
Culture develops out of beliefs and values (roots and trunk) that grow in the ‘soil’ of our worldview. From there comes the principles that guide the decisions we make and the policies we create (branches). These in the turn produce the ‘fruit’ – the actions, behaviours, routines, practices, initiatives, programs etc. in our company.
Our worldview is developed by our experiences in the culture and family which we grew up in. We need to first ask ourselves how our own worldview needs to be transformed to align with a biblical worldview – one that is shaped by the Word of God. Then we need to recognise that the people we are working with may have a different set of values, beliefs, principles and practices, growing out of a different worldview to ours.
Decisions and policies include any rules, laws, structures, relationship-norms, policies, guidelines etc. that we establish for our company; whether those are informal or formal, intentional or unintentional. These policies stem from our worldview, beliefs and values. They in turn result in the ‘fruit’ of our behaviours, practices, actions and initiatives.
If we are to have integrity, our purpose, beliefs, values, principles and practices should all flow together. They should be aligned with each other and with the Word of God.
Any policy or structure that does not reinforce the purpose and values of the company should be scrapped or changed. Unless we can clearly see how our structures and policies are rooted in beliefs and values – and we can explain why they exist – it is very hard to align teams. Without aligned and passionate teams we are dead in the water.
Creating Company Culture
The culture of our company is an expression of ‘the way we do things here’, which as we have seen is rooted in our values and beliefs. A culture will develop in a company, whether we are intentional about it or not. Culture can be hard to change or reverse. Thus we need to focus on developing the kind of culture that we want, one that aligns with our BAM vision, values and goals.
First of all, as the business leader, you must constantly and consistently express the Purpose or Vision of the company, and the Values of the company. That is, you must express both why you are in business and how you are going to do business. Then it is a case of embedding the purpose and values of the company into company norms (decisions, policies, relationship-norms, systems, structures), so that they can be consistently applied in working life (practices, routines, behaviour, attitudes etc.)
But what does that actually look like on a Monday morning? Here are ‘4Cs’ for developing company culture:
Create a sense of urgency. This is to do with active leadership, creating the momentum that will help move the rest of the company forward. As the leader you have the responsibility to take the lead, respond to issues as they arise, and to model it. Leaders must never contradict the culture they are trying to develop, or trust will be gone. Your managers and staff won’t just listen to your words, they will watch your actions. Are you first living out the values and following the systems yourself? Then, are you taking action when other people don’t follow the policy?
Communicate up and down the company. This is about getting everyone in the business involved. Leaders need to communicate to their staff and encourage people to communicate back. Are the values, policies and resulting practices clear to all? Is there two way communication?
Make sure your Vision and Values stick by repeating them and making them visible. Entrepreneurs are sometimes not very good at this reiteration, they assume everyone has got it when they’ve told them once.
Make sure people are competent to do their jobs. Does everyone understand what they are expected to do? Without giving your staff advice, input and training you can’t expect people to do what you want them to do and in the way you want them to do it.
Make sure the structures and systems you put in place are working. Are they reasonable and actionable? Are people willing and able to comply? Review policies and correct them. Build in evaluation and audit of your people and systems.
Motivate people by endorsing and rewarding good behaviours that are in line with your values. Catch people doing good things. Maintaining a culture will involved continued reinforcement of vision and values, not adding more and more policies and systems – although you do need these in the first place, along with penalties for non-compliance. Correct negative behaviours by first attempting to remove the behaviour, then, if necessary, the person. Make sure there are consequences and measures against unwanted behaviours, and ultimately consequences for the person if needed.
The impetus for these 4 Cs should come from the business leaders, who must have the capacity for intentionally developing company culture. If leaders are not healthy, then company culture will not be healthy. This is just one reason why it is vital for leaders to get enough rest and recreation, prioritise their walk with God, stay physically healthy, invest in strong marriage and family relationships and so on. Without that life and vitality, company culture will suffer.
by David Skews and Jo Plummer
David Skews, LLB is a businessperson called to mission. David obtained his law degree in 1981 and worked in the area of Health and Safety for over 20 years. In 1989, he established EDP Health Safety & Environment Consultants Ltd performing the role of CEO as he led EDP through sustained growth for over 25 years in both the UK and Asia. In 2004 he fully engaged in business as mission, as well as continuing to lead his business. Since then, David has focused his efforts into training entrepreneurs in Asia and Africa, and speaking internationally on business for good. He has also helped lead a mission agency through the process of embracing missional business. Today, he acts as a non-exec director for six successful BAM businesses and is part of the Advisory Board for BAM Global. David transitioned out of his business in 2015 and into new BAM fields! David is married to Lesley and is based in the UK.
Jo Plummer is the Co-Chair of the BAM Global Think Tank and co-editor the Lausanne Occasional Paper on Business as Mission. She has been developing resources for BAM since 2001 and currently serves as Editor of the Business as Mission website.