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jennifer davidson

Cultivating culture

Jennifer Davidson, founder and MD of Sleek Events, aimed for a boutique events company and got a bit more than she bargained for

In the early days, I put down on paper the vision, mission, values and culture statements for the business. A friend and fellow business owner had recommended the process to me. I needed to be able to consistently communicate what I was trying to achieve, not just to clients and prospects, but to my team and future staff.

It’s amazing how difficult it is to articulate your thoughts and feelings for a business you’ve had in your mind for so long. I got it all out on paper and then refined it with the help of a small team of trusted advisors and tested the wording with the couple of staff I had in the first year of the business. I was finally happy with it and so were my team; they’d bought into my vision wholeheartedly.

We now have 11 in our team plus many ‘permalancers’ we call on for specialist support. So, how do I maintain our culture of mutual respect, loyalty, authenticity, unity and creativity? Not only maintain it, but also cultivate it when we welcome new staff or have times of challenge? Here’s the five things I’ve found to be essential in this process:

1. Establish brand identity and culture as early as you can - but don’t be afraid to get started if you’ve let it slide so far;

2. Set a culture that will withstand change or can develop nicely alongside it - don’t be afraid to be flexible;

3. Recruit with culture in mind - you can train some skills, but you can’t train personality. Our team don’t say ‘no’, we ask ‘how’ - don’t be afraid to be strong in your recruitment decisions;

4. Involve your team in finalising your values and culture statements - don’t be afraid to let go of your company and ask them for their input on a regular basis;

5. Your clients are part of your culture - don’t be afraid to turn down business that doesn’t feel right.

My plan is to stick at a team of 15 at Sleek Events. I wanted a boutique agency at the start and I plan to keep it that way. But, I think my tactics on cultivating culture would work if we grew to a team of 50, possibly more.