Small Biz Matters

Welcome to Small Biz Matters, where IBJ discusses issues of interest to small-business owners and entrepreneurs. I'm your host, Associate Editor Andrea Davis.

Small Business

Preaching to the choir could be good strategy

January 30, 2013
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Call it culture-powered marketing or internal marketing or just good business. Whatever the label, it makes sense for organizations to cultivate a work environment where employees rally around a shared objective.

After all, a satisfied staff is a crucial part of a successful business.

“Start the culture and experiences with the employees, and they will create and deliver (or ‘market’) them to the customers,” consultant David “Doc” Vik told me for an IBJ story published Jan. 26. Vik, who coached workers at online shoe retailer Zappos.com, wrote a book on corporate culture set to be released next month.(Culture is so important to Zappos that the Nevada-based company offers new hires $4,000 to quit during training, figuring anyone who takes the money isn't a good fit.)

Local entrepreneur Jeb Banner put the power-of-culture theory into practice last year at his Web marketing firm SmallBox. Now he is hoping to share what his team has learned with other companies looking to cure what ails them.

“Unhealthy organizations have an unhealthy voice,” he said. “That’s hard to market.”

Banner advocates identifying and articulating a vision, then empowering employees to paint that picture for the public.

“Do you have workers or believers?” he asked.

Without a clear purpose—and it has to be something more meaningful than “to make money”—organizations can find themselves embroiled in an internal tug-of-war, agreed Kevin Bailey, co-founder of Indianapolis-based Slingshot SEO.

“If a business simply exists to make a profit, there are going to be different opinions about how to go about doing that,” said Bailey, a Banner friend and client. “People line up on both sides of the rope, and you end up in organizational limbo.”

But when everyone pulls in the same direction, he said, the result is powerful.

“This stuff is much more holistic than just marketing,” Bailey said. “It’s good for the organization at a root level.”

It certainly has been for SmallBox, which posted record revenue in 2012 and expects to improve upon it this year—in part by offering “organizational health” consulting services.

“We’re shifting our approach, going deeper into businesses and having conversations about leadership and goals,” Banner said. “This isn’t easy stuff. If it was, everyone would do it.”

What do you think about the idea? Could your business benefit from an organizational checkup or a culture booster? Join the conversation below.
 

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