Sink or Swim: How Focusing on Your Team Will Help Your Startup Succeed

While the U.S. economy took a hit during the pandemic, the startup scene flourished. In 2020, Americans filed paperwork to start 4.3 million new businesses, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. And from December 2020 to December 2021, there was a 20.5% year-over-year increase in applications. Whether you’ve spotted an opportunity in the market or simply want to create a career that better aligns with your values, there are many motives to become an entrepreneur. But here’s the downside: You’ll probably fail.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, as reported by Investopedia, 50% of startups will shut down by their fifth year and 65% will close by their 10th year. Those are some terrifying odds if you’re a startup. However, I’ve found a way to increase your likelihood of success. I prioritized focusing on people and building a strong company culture, and it completely changed the game.

Your employees are your most vital asset. Without the help of a talented team, your company is doomed to fail. However, workers are quitting their jobs at record rates, searching for healthier company cultures. Almost two-thirds of people who quit at the beginning of 2022 cited toxic culture as the leading cause, according to a FlexJobs survey. By creating a positive experience at work, you retain talented employees and increase your startup’s likelihood of success.

Related: 3 Ways to Avoid the Agony of Startup Failure

The benefits of building a strong company culture

At Billy, we’ve seen a correlation between company culture and success. We received consistent feedback from customers letting us know how much they enjoyed working with our team. So, we decided to invest more time and resources into keeping a positive workplace because it directly impacted our bottom line.

In a recent IDC survey, 85% of business owners agreed that a positive employee experience and increased employee engagement resulted in better customer experiences and more revenue. These findings verify that if you want happy customers, you need to start by focusing on your employees.

Creating the best company culture possible not only improves your customer experience, but it also helps your recruiting efforts. When people enjoy working at your business, attracting new employees is easier. Indeed found that 46% of job seekers ended up not applying because the decision came down to poor culture fit.

Once you have a talented team on board, your culture has the power to keep employees engaged and energized. According to a Gallup report, companies with engaged teams had 21% higher profitability. This is likely because engaged employees are committed to bringing their best selves to work, creating a team excited to for company success.

Culture is more than a decent salary and office perks. Your employees are looking for a positive work experience. When you focus on building a solid company culture, you’ll create an environment that motivates your team. Below are my top recommendations to develop a culture focusing on people.

Related: 7 Ways to Ignite Employee Engagement and Boost Your Bottom Line

1. Build trust in the workplace

The way you treat your employees transfers to your customers. A bad work environment means your employees will likely provide suboptimal customer service. In a survey conducted by Eagle Hill, 64% of respondents said that their experiences at work impacted their ability to provide quality customer service. On the flip side, employees who are happy at work create significantly better customer experiences. One pharmaceutical company found that their customer loyalty increased when their employees were happy and engaged.

So, how can you increase employees’ happiness? Start by cultivating a company culture rooted in trust. A researcher who studies the neuroscience behind trust found that workers at high-trust companies were 74% less stressed than workers at low-trust organizations. Although some stress is normal at work, excessive amounts can reduce motivation and lead to burnout.

Related: The Future Workforce Will Need a Workplace Of Trust And One That Engages Them While Honouring Flexibility

2. Help employees feel heard

Employees who feel their voices matter are more likely to have positive work experiences. A study by The Workforce Institute at UKG, 74% of respondents reported being more effective and engaged at work when they felt heard. Furthermore, when employees felt heard, their companies performed better.

Active listening is important when it comes to your front-line staff. These key workers interact with your customers the most and have the greatest impact on customer experience. Yet, many feel like upper management ignores their concerns. A recent survey by SafetyCulture found that 23% of front-line workers said they were rarely listened to by management. By listening to your customer-facing teammates, you’ll create a more positive work experience that demonstrates the value of every voice in your company.

3. Do more to recognize your employees

If you want to keep your team from joining “The Great Resignation,” showing your appreciation is a must. According to a report by the Achievers Workforce Institute, 43% of employees said regular recognition at work made them less likely to look for new jobs. So, it’s important to show appreciation for your team and their efforts, even when they fail.

I write cards for even the smallest accomplishments because I know all my employees work extremely hard for our company. Although it might seem counterintuitive to choose old-school thank-you notes over email, they’re much more personal, and my employees are more likely to see them. Harvard Business Review reports that the average full-time worker gets more than 100 emails a day, and I don’t want my appreciation note to be just another message in an inbox.

Another way to show your appreciation is to post employee spotlights on your social media accounts. This recognizes employees for their hard work and lets customers know you care about your team. Now more than ever, customers make purchasing decisions based on company ethics. Nearly half of consumers said they trust brands more if they take care of their workers. By posting employee spotlights, you can show your customers that you genuinely care about your team.

If you want to succeed at starting a new company, you need to focus on your people first. Developing a positive company culture gives your startup a competitive advantage and provides your employees context for their work. In turn, this will improve your customer experience and help you grow your business.

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