In this episode, Michael and Chris tackle company culture. We’ll talk about:
  • How to create a solid company culture and avoid the fluff
  • Creating a Culture Deck
  • Why culture makesĀ  a difference in your painting business
  • Describing culture clearly and modeling it in leadership
For more information on what we discussed in this episode, visitĀ https://www.searchprimer.com.

Episode Transcript

Chris Raines:

Culture is one of those things that I think has been hyped up a lot in the past, so much so that people have kind of lost faith in it. So we’re going to dig in and kind of understand a little bit about where it matters, where it doesn’t, understand what’s appropriate for a business to make sure it’s happening inside their four walls.

Chris Raines:

Welcome to Grow Your Painting Business, a podcast for commercial, residential and industrial painters to grow their businesses in their local or regional markets. We’re experts in digital marketing for painters and other trades and this is a show to share our experience with you. Grow Your Painting Business is a free podcast from searchprimer.com, the experts in digital marketing for the trades.

Chris Raines:

All right, welcome to episode 38 of Grow Your Painting Business, the podcast from SearchPrimer.com. My name is Chris Raines. I’m joined by Michael Utley, who has morning throat voice.

Michael Utley:

Good morning, Chris.

Chris Raines:

That’s kind of sexy. You got to really close to the microphone.

Michael Utley:

Yeah, I have to come in real close here. Hey girl.

Chris Raines:

All right, Michael, we have a interesting topic today. It’s one we haven’t talked about before. We’ve kind of danced around it when talking about internal organizational things that painting contractors and painting businesses.

Michael Utley:

I think we’d make fun of it more than we celebrate.

Chris Raines:

You think so?

Michael Utley:

I think so.

Chris Raines:

Well, we’re talking about culture. Well, what is culture?

Michael Utley:

Yeah, culture, I don’t have a definition, but I think it’s the unspoken set of expectations of how to interact with one another and what to expect from the workplace and the company in terms of just your overall lifestyle. So how does life bleed into work and work bleed into life, and how do you make sure that you’re not creating a miserable environment for people by not having thought about culture?

Chris Raines:

What are the implications of a bad culture?

Michael Utley:

Oh man. Everybody knows it and it all comes from the leader. If a leader is sort of always wound up in negative or cynical or untrusting, that plays out in the room and everybody can feel it and it leads to higher turnover and it’s something that nobody can ever quite put their finger on. Like, “Yeah, I just don’t like working here because you guys are just not fun. You’re actually kind of miserable to be around.” Or, “this place is a pressure cooker, feels like it’s going to blow any minute”. Yeah, those are the things that happen when culture is done badly, which is often what happens when it’s not done intentionally.

Chris Raines:

And what are some steps, Michael, our first item we got here is creating a culture deck. So, why is it important? I assume you mean slide deck?

Michael Utley:

Yeah.

Chris Raines:

Why is it important to articulate what you want your culture to be before you actually form your culture?

Michael Utley:

So yes, this was a little bit tricky. It sounds like I’m saying, when we put this in the outline, it sounds like I’m saying have a presentation and get everybody up to speed. The problem with that is you can’t say, “All right guys, it’s a party. Everybody have fun.” So you got to be a little bit more indirect than that. I think it’s good whether it’s a deck or a document or whatever it is to go through the exercise as a leader or as a leadership team and say, “What are we going to be known for in terms of our work environment?” The people who work with us, the clients, what they bump up against in our experience, whether we want them to or not, they’re going to know your culture a little bit.

Michael Utley:

How do we treat each other? How do we speak to each other? Those are things that are good to articulate for yourself and then to number one, demonstrate. But number two, promote. So you really have to do both. If you find that you have some ideals for how you would like to people to treat each other and it’s not how you treat people as a leader, then you’ve got a problem, and you may have made it this far, but you’re going to be limited on how far you can make it until you can clearly articulate the kind of environment you want to create and that you want clients to get a whiff of, customers to sort of intuitively sense is happening under the hood. And if you’re a part of the problem, that’s something to address and a good way to go about identifying that is to write it down.

Michael Utley:

So whether it’s a deck or a document articulating for yourself, what kind of company do we want to feel like is really a good place to start.

Chris Raines:

Yeah. So I’m hearing articulate what you want your culture to be and then act on what you’ve articulated to solidify that.

Michael Utley:

That’s right.

Chris Raines:

That’s great. What else we have here? I lost our outline here. How can you create a culture that is substantial, it’s not just fluff, and genuinely benefits your employees?

Michael Utley:

Yeah, I think culture has been one of the things over the last, gosh, 10 years of my career that I think has gotten a lot of attention. And I think it’s because people really didn’t have a language. Culture was something that for maybe a long time, maybe before our time, happened incidentally and now it’s seen as one of the features of a place to attract people.

Michael Utley:

Now it’s sort of a selling point for attracting talent. The problem is with the Silicon Valley sort of approach of ping pong tables and-

Chris Raines:

Culture isn’t ping pong.

Michael Utley:

Foosball, we’re maybe distracted all the time, but we never leave, we’re here 24/7. That became a joke. It became a real joke. So I think as one is creating their own culture document or culture deck, what they can articulate is maybe things like how much do we expect people to work? When they’re here, do we expect them to be on time? Do we have set office hours or do we have a more flexible schedule that more depends on set deliverables and accountability that’s measured in other ways? Articulating these things, and these aren’t just HR policies.

Michael Utley:

These are, “Hey guys, here’s how we’re going to work together as a team.” And if you don’t sort of let people know the rules of the game, they’re going to just bring in whatever they had from their work experience, good or bad. And it could be that, yeah, if somebody’s not watching, you don’t really have to be here at a certain time. Well, if that’s not what you want and you haven’t articulated otherwise, then you’re the problem. Leadership has to articulate and set the trajectory. And so doing that with culture means maybe you have to think about some things you really haven’t given much thought before. Like, are we going to make donations as a company? If so, how are we going to celebrate those and let the employees know that you’re a part of creating value that’s actually financially supporting organizations in your community?

Michael Utley:

What organizations do you want to celebrate? What are the sort of things that your employees would be excited to know that their work is going toward benefiting? So articulating those things and understanding what’s really going to matter to people, it’s important.

Chris Raines:

Yeah. I agree and let’s talk about growth and development of employees. I think a lot of times business owners, when they start hiring employees, they think, “Oh great, here’s someone’s whose time that I can use to make more money and to enrich my company, enrich myself.” And they don’t really stop and think about from the employee’s perspective. Those aren’t their goals, they want to grow and they want to advance their career and they want to, a lot of times, go on and do bigger and better things. Maybe they want to go start their own painting company.

Chris Raines:

And there’s a balance there of that. You’re going to work for me for like six months and then open up shop and compete against me. But talk a little bit about growth and development and sort of how to create a space where that is allowed and encouraged and part of the process of being a team member.

Michael Utley:

Yeah. We’ve touched on some of the sort of main categories of culture. It’s how do we want the office to feel, sort of what’s the communication style and environment of the workspace. And of course that extends out into the field typically. Number two is, what are the productivity expectations. Number three, what sort of community involvement are we going to have and is it something that’s going to come from the ground up inside the company and how is it going to play out into who we are and what we do and what we contribute to.

Michael Utley:

And then, Chris, the one you’re bringing up is how are we going to be a place where people become better over time, better individuals, personally, better at their jobs, better at their careers. It’s good to determine and think in terms of career paths as your staffing.

Chris Raines:

Even if you’re small.

Michael Utley:

Yeah. Even if you’re small, we’re small. GoEpps is a small company, GoEpps, the owner of SearchPrimer.com, is a very small company, but we have career paths when people are hired we say, “Hey, if you’re here for this amount of time, this is kind of where you can expect to grow” and that’s important. People are coming in and they’re wanting to know things like, do you do any tuition reimbursement? Where would this job get promoted to? What sort of role would this role feed into?

Michael Utley:

And it might be that there would be some additional training opportunities and if so, does the company pay for any of those? Because if you’re finding good people and you want to move them ahead, you can do that and often probably would, but maybe miss the opportunity to sort of let people know this is a part of the company culture. So yeah, articulating and having a policy and a budget for staff training and development is a really valuable.

Chris Raines:

It’s the difference between a focus on growing people versus growing your company using people. And if you try to grow people, guess what? Your company’s going to grow, too.

Michael Utley:

Yeah and then if I had to think of kind of a last category and maybe we wrap up on this, I do think fun is a good thing. I think even though it got so sort of extreme that it became a joke with the Silicon Valley culture of-

Chris Raines:

Work hard, play hard.

Michael Utley:

Yeah. Work hard, play hard, meaning trapping people and never letting them leave. It is important in this day and age with tools like Glassdoor, which is a way for potential employees to sort of peek inside your company without your permission. It’s good to create an atmosphere that people enjoy being a part of. The sort of nose to the grindstone days are gone because it’s just not how people choose to live. If they don’t feel that they’re in an environment that takes their time seriously but is also enjoyable, they’re going to find somewhere else to go. And so yeah, being fun, having fun, we do occasional happy hours where we get out of the office and go to a pub down the street and have a company sponsored happy hour and it’s not a big deal.

Michael Utley:

Nobody’s getting too rowdy, but it’s just a way to spend time together outside of the office and make sure that relationships are getting built and that every once in a while we can have a laugh and it’s good to kind of see the fun pervade the rest of the week and to sort of seep back into the business interactions and sort of lighten them up a little bit.

Chris Raines:

That’s a small investment to just let the pressure out a little bit and just let people know, I appreciate you.

Michael Utley:

Yeah. And even to say it that directly. And so rolling out a document for yourself where you’re thinking, “Okay, what do I want to be known for?” Is it our whip smart professionalism? Okay, good. Is it the way we beat up on vendors and try to get their pricing down? Okay, maybe not so good. These are all things you can articulate for yourself and then determine, okay, what’s the culture going to be in my organization? And then just nurse it over time, nurture it, keep it growing, develop it. You may not be able to do everything at one time, but you can set up sort of an ideal for yourself and work toward it over a number of months or years.

Chris Raines:

Yeah. That’s great. So if you’re listening to this, that’s a really good takeaway. Even if it’s just a one page document with four headlines, that’s a good place to start. Nothing ever comes into being unless it’s a articulated idea first. Nothing accidentally.

Michael Utley:

Yeah. And what’s the KPI for this? Yeah, I think, not customer retention, but employee retention. I think the longer-

Chris Raines:

Happiness.

Michael Utley:

The longer people are willing to stay with you. Sometimes it’s hard to measure happiness. It’s hard to ask people, “Hey, how happy are you?” It’s something that’s sort of known intuitively, but you can measure how long people have been with you and that’s a really, really good measure of the health of your company culture.

Chris Raines:

Great. All right, well that’s all we have and if you’re still listening, if you want to figure out where you’re succeeding or failing on in your website, if you’re a painting contractor, go to searchprimer.com and Michael, we have a free audit that’s listed there. It’s at the very bottom of the screen, at searchprimer.com. Go to searchprimer.com, scroll down to the very bottom and there’s a short form to fill out with the two or three options there. You’ll put in your website URL and your name and your email, and we will do a free audit for you and to show you what you’re doing right, what you’re doing wrong, areas of opportunity for your website. So go ahead and take advantage of that. Searchprimer.com.

Michael Utley:

Absolutely.

Chris Raines:

See you on the next one.

Michael Utley:

The Grow Your Painting Business podcast is a free service of SearchPrimer.com. Visit us today for more information on how you can grow your business using the latest tools and digital marketing. SearchPrimer.com.