When people describe a company with great culture, many people immediately picture a laid-back and fun loving atmosphere. This sells a good company culture far short though. Building a great culture is much more than just casual attire or Beer Friday – it's more about the who, what, how, and why of your business. Building great culture takes some combination of time, money, and effort - but the payoff is a powerful business tool and the ultimate competitive advantage.

At Call-Em-All, we start with people who care.  We add a strong support structure for the work they do and a clear vision of what we're trying to accomplish. This combination results in a healthy, focused, and engaged team – a powerful team. When you stop to think about it, your team is your most important business tool, right? Culture is what determines if your team is a weakness or an endlessly renewing competitive advantage.

Below are 8 ways you can use culture to unleash the power of your team and make it your ultimate competitive advantage. Call-Em-All executed all of these in the last 12 months and my future blog posts will cover why we chose to do each of them along with the results we've observed.

1. Document your culture

(April 2013) – Hai Nguyen and I attended Inc. Magazine's GrowCo Conference and met Sunny and Ashleigh from Motto. It was clear they were passionate about instilling passion and culture into a company’s brand. It took a few months to complete, but we were able to more formally document what it was that made us special, then infuse it into the new website. Highlight: Our Manifesto.

2. Get out of the office and find new ideas

(May 2013) – I attended a Small Giants Passport event at Zingerman’s Community of Businesses in Ann Arbor, MI with a small group of like-minded business owners and Small Giants author, Bo Burlingham. Thanks to these great people, I left with inspiration and ideas for continuing to improve Call-Em-All. Highlight: Seeing Zingerman’s scoreboard & huddle in action.

3. Create an environment that fosters success

(July 2013) – We completed our long-awaited office remodel. We now have an open and collaborative environment with shared offices for private conversations, webinars, important calls, or isolated work time. Sit-stand desks have been a big hit and quite helpful for collaboration. Other highlights include an open kitchen, a large open area for team meetings & lunches, and a reading (video game) nook. Highlight: Gathering around the giant island in our kitchen.

4. Teach employees to think like business owners

(July 2013) – We implemented a Great Game of Business inspired scoreboard. This scoreboard now guides our weekly all-staff meetings. As a result, we have made great strides in our identification and measurement of the activities that matter most to our success. Communication between teams is better than ever and real-time dashboards on our walls track our most important metrics. Highlight: Employees understand how their activities affect the overall success of the company and hold each other accountable.

5. Take time away – together!

(October 2013) – We took the entire company to visit Zingerman’s Community of Businesses. We spent a very productive day and a half working with Ari Weinzweig and Maggie Bayless. The trip was much more than just training though. We spent quality time together building bonds across teams and sharing new experiences. Highlight: Football in the big house.

6. Share the wealth

(January 2014) – We created a new profit sharing plan to allow employees to share in the success they help create. The plan fits well with our goal to encourage employees to think and act like business owners. Our compensation model has always involved paying our employees well, so our profit sharing plan is more like icing on the cake. Highlight: Handing out checks!

7. Define and demand great teamwork

(February 2014) – Our team all read Pat Lencioni’s 5 Dysfunctions of a Team. We felt his concepts on teamwork were right in line with the way we want to work – but a little more formal then we like. So, we took Pat’s ideas and translated them into our own words. The result is the Call-Em-All Formula. It is our formula for great teamwork, and we love it. Highlight: The line “Defensiveness Loses Championships.”

8. Define and document your vision

(April 2014) – We started our vision with the guidance of visioning guru Ari Weinzweig. We had no idea where to start or even if we had a vision in mind – turns out we did. It’s just a matter of coaxing it out and writing it down. It turns out that writing down your ideas has an amazing ability to make them happen! Highlight: This great blog post by Thomas Hoffman (incorrectly attributed to me)

While Call-Em-All started out with a healthy culture, we were still able to make amazing improvements in short order. I hope you found at least one idea that can help your culture and team become your most powerful business tool.

We'll cover each of these in more detail in future posts. Just follow @brad_herrmann or @callemall to keep up to date. In the meantime, feel free to comment with any questions or stop by for a visit!