Cultivating a Winning Work Culture

The modern workplace is more than just a wage generator. The best companies define, build, and nurture a unique employment culture that benefits employees and customers.

Workplace culture is a crucial component of fostering a satisfying environment for employees while engaging customers.

A strong company culture provides many benefits for businesses, including higher employee retention rates, attracting top talent, more engagement from employees and customers, and increased productivity, to name a few. According to a Global Culture Report from O.C. Tanner, when companies put effort into building a robust culture, engagement increases by 6 percent.

Cultivating a positive work culture takes time. But it starts with defining company values, focusing on people, and leaders setting the example.

What comprises work culture?

Workplace culture has many elements and moving parts. It is often defined by how employees interact with one another, how they feel about the work they’re doing, how they feel about the company, and how effective they are. Workplace culture is generally centered around the mission and vision of the organization, which should be clearly communicated to the team, and often.

Essential aspects of the company’s values should be repeatedly touched upon in meetings and company-wide communications. For a positive work culture to become a reality, everyone has to be on the same page.

Company culture also impacts the business’s clients and customers. If negative attitudes are widespread and apparent in the office, it’s not the type of environment where people want to work.

As the Society of Human Resource Management indicates, factors that shape company culture include:

  • The company’s values
  • The hierarchical structure
  • The degree of urgency with which the organization approaches decision-making and innovation
  • Being people- or task-oriented
  • Functional orientation
  • Subcultures within the company

The benefits offered to employees, including health, wellness, and work-life balance benefits, also can shape company culture and underlying attitudes about work.

It starts with leadership

Unfortunately, many company leaders may forget that it’s the responsibility of executives to create and nurture a good company culture. They may become frustrated when employees aren’t motivated, not recognizing their role in the process.

As the Entrepreneurial Operating System (EOS) emphasizes, leaders must own company culture, communicate it regularly, expect it from everyone in the company, and live the message by example. Actions and decisions must be deliberate, and leaders need to remember that what they do and say sets the tone for the entire workplace.

The importance of accountability

Staff members need to know what their roles and responsibilities are to be able to do their job well. One tool that helps clear things up is an accountability chart, which provides clear expectations and functions for everyone on the team. While you may think that employees should know where they stand in the hierarchy, it may not be as apparent as you think.

Being clear and holding employees accountable are musts when building and nurturing a productive, effective environment at work. Accountability shows employees that their roles and responsibilities matter to the company, and it’s never uncertain where they fit into the bigger picture.

Focus on your people

Finally, you’ll never truly know how your employees and customers view the company’s culture unless you ask them. Surveys are useful tools to gauge how satisfied employees are with their work responsibilities, executive leadership, or the company culture as a whole. Asking for feedback can help you find inconsistencies or gaps in the workplace culture to work on.

Additionally, involve employees in decision-making and ask for their opinions in meetings. People who are given a voice are generally more satisfied at work. They feel like they matter to the company, and they’re aware of their role in the organization’s mission. A survey from the American Psychological Association showed that workers who feel valued by their employers were more likely to be satisfied with their jobs and motivated to do their best at work.

Once a positive, productive workplace culture is in place, it can always change. That’s why it’s an aspect of your business that must be continuously revisited and cultivated. New technologies and work arrangements can change workplace culture, so be adaptable to what employees want and what customers expect.

At Provident CPA & Business Advisors, we help businesses clarify and achieve their vision. We use the Entrepreneurial Operating System model, which focuses on the six key components of business: vision, people, data, issues, processes, and traction. Contact Provident today to learn more about our growth and profit management services.

Ethical Entrepreneurship: The Impact and Strategies of Ethics

A growing number of global consumers want companies to have an ethically responsible vision and values, or they’ll spend elsewhere. How can small business owners start focusing on their “ethical footprint?”

As an entrepreneur, you have plenty to worry about as you try to bring in profits and get your name out there. But growing your business now also depends on meeting the expectations of more value-aligned workers and consumers. These values are largely driven by the younger generations—Millennials and Gen Z.

A RetailMeNot survey from 2019 revealed that 66 percent of respondents—made up of US internet users over age 18—feel that more brands should take a public stand on social values, and 74 percent of respondents ages 22 to 37 think this way.

These younger generations care greatly about whether or not the brands they’re supporting have put ethical policies in place or are taking steps to become more sustainable with their business practices, products, and services.

Gone are the days when you can ignore your business’s impact on the world around you. Your ethical responsibilities should be at the forefront of business strategy.

So, where to begin?

Ethical issues faced by entrepreneurs

New businesses are often faced with many ethical dilemmas. When money is tight, and products or services are new, it’s easy to try to cut corners or go the cheapest route, rather than the most ethical one.

Common ethical dilemmas faced by entrepreneurs include things like:

  • Whether to put out a product or service offering before it’s ready, risking quality
  • How to follow through on what you say you’ll do when lack of funding or other roadblocks get in the way
  • Whether to provide employees fundamental benefits that are hard to afford right away
  • Whether to focus on what’s cost-effective versus environmentally friendly options

Going the less-than-ethical route can be especially tempting when the business is still small, and there aren’t many people to keep each other accountable.

Environmental considerations

Creating an environmentally responsible company is one way entrepreneurs focus on fostering an ethical business. Our impact on the environment has been a pressing topic for years now, but it continues to stay top of mind for businesses, consumers, and workers, especially as younger generations are taking over workplaces.

A recent survey commissioned by Swytch, a clean energy blockchain platform, shows that more than 70 percent of millennial employees would be willing to accept a smaller salary in exchange for working for a company that’s environmentally responsible—10 percent said they’d even take a $10,000 pay cut.

But these concerns aren’t just held by workers. A Nielsen report indicated that 66 percent of consumers would pay more for brands that are sustainable, and 73 percent will pay more for sustainable products and services.

Environmental considerations include anything from using natural energy resources to offering cruelty-free products. If you’re just starting out, it can be a challenge to factor in the environment when you have a lot more on your plate. But making this a priority will help you start things off with ethics in mind, setting the stage for years to come.

Creating a clear purpose

To keep yourself and your business accountable, make sure that your actions and products are in alignment with your mission and vision. This first requires, of course, that you develop these concepts thoughtfully for your business and share them with the team. Your mission and vision will help you to maintain consistency and keep the end goal in mind while making decisions.

Defining and establishing your values early will help you and the team stay aware of the business’s commitment to transparency, and it will motivate everyone to stay within the ethical boundaries of the business. Your purpose will also be clear, which is a good reminder of why you’re doing what you’re doing.

Focusing on people

You wouldn’t have started your business without the people you want to help with your products or services. Instead of simply focusing like a laser on your bottom line, always remember that—at the end of the day—people are driving your business growth. This focus applies to both your customers and your employees.

Treating your customers well and prioritizing their needs is an ethical way to run your business. But without putting them at the top of the list, it can be easy to forget this simple truth. Your audience needs to believe in your brand and your services—and that starts with being an ethical leader.

Ethics are a broad concept, covering everything from whether to fudge financial reports or skirt waste disposal regulations to how you treat your employees, customers, and the environment. But in every aspect, having an ethical business begins with defining your purpose and vision. It extends to your operations, customer service practices, online engagements, the organizations you support, and how you treat people.

And in the end, ethics help generate success.

Provident CPA & Business Advisors serves successful professionals, entrepreneurs, and investors who want to get more out of their business and work less, so they can make a positive impact in their lives and communities. Typically, our clients reduce their taxes by 20 percent or more and create tax-free wealth for life. Contact us for expert advice on tax planning and business strategy, and to find out how we can help your business exceed your expectations.

Investing in Your Business or Paying off Debt: Which Comes First?

Both options can be wise and move your enterprise forward. But business owners need to know which step to take, right now, before parting with precious cash.

The dilemma is ongoing for entrepreneurs: Should you invest in your business or pay off debt? Which is more important, and which should come first?

Investing in your business means you’re putting time and money toward things that will pay off later, like a new marketing strategy, new supplies, hiring an employee, taking a professional development course, or many more options.

While many of these investments sound appealing—and they may grow your organization and create significant ROI—it’s worth taking a look at your debt before spending on your business.

How do you decide where to start? Unfortunately, there’s no black-and-white answer. But when you weigh these pros and cons and assess the kinds of debt you have, you should be able to come up with the right answer for you, right now.

The benefits of investing in the business first

We’ve all heard the old adage: You have to spend money to make money. This line of thinking means that you have to give yourself the resources you need before your business will take off. Success doesn’t happen overnight, and you need to invest in the tools, technologies, equipment, and people.

Even if you’re short on cash and saddled by debt, the benefits of investing in your business first are:

  • You can start earning more money now (for example, with a new business offering or by attracting leads through a new marketing vehicle)
  • Freeing up time by hiring a new employee—allowing you to focus on strategy and growth
  • Speeding up processes and operations by investing in a new tool or platform

Sometimes, entrepreneurs will initially forgo a salary and put that money toward business needs. While this isn’t possible for everyone, it’s one way that owners can invest in their business to give it the boost it really needs.

Just make sure that you’re not spending money you don’t have (e.g., using credit cards or dipping into earmarked funds) to grow. Undisciplined spending and resource management will make it far more challenging to balance cash flow properly.

The benefits of paying off debt first

Paying off debt is one of the best feelings in the world, whether you’re paying off business or personal loans. A weight is lifted, and you can start planning what to do with the money you’ve been paying to your debtor each month.

As an entrepreneur, you know how taxing it can be to continue to pay off the debts you’ve accrued. You may reach the point where you have enough money saved up to pay it off—but you’re unsure if it’s wise to give up the cash on hand, should an emergency or another unforeseen expense arise.

The key benefits of prioritizing debt pay-off:

  • You’ll avoid paying interest that would continue accruing; depending on the terms of the loan, this recurring cost may be significant.
  • Your credit score will improve, enabling you to acquire more capital for unforeseen expenses or expansion.
  • You get rid of the huge liability that debt can be for a small business—a burden that ends many enterprises.

While all of these benefits may sound great, you still need to make sure this is the right way forward. For some businesses, cash is king—depending on where you are in the growth cycle.

Making the call: Invest or pay off debt?

First, consider the types of debt you have when deciding whether you should invest or pay off debt. Questions to ask yourself include:

  • What kinds of debt do you have, such as revolving credit or long-term loans?
  • How high are the interest rates?
  • How much interest could you save by paying the debt off now?
  • How manageable are your monthly payments?

For example, if you have a long-term equity loan leveraging a piece of property—the monthly payment is small, and the interest rate isn’t too high—it could be a smarter idea to invest in your business now and continue making the debt payments.

Also worth noting is that sometimes, you can defer or mitigate interest on your debt by acquiring a new loan, or simply lower it by renegotiating terms with a current lender.

If, however, you’re looking at short-term debt that has a very high interest rate, it’s probably smart to tackle that debt as soon as you can.

A good rule of thumb: compare the potential return of investing that money in a relatively conservative investment vehicle. If you have no hope of achieving better returns than your current interest, tackle the debt, and free up future capital. This same rule applies to the business: carefully analyze the potential ROI of a new investment, such as the tangible benefits of making a new hire. The closer you can nail down these numbers, the clearer a decision will be.

Finally, there is one rule that precedes making a new business investment or paying off any debt: always make sure that you have an emergency savings fund on hand in case you need it.

Provident CPA & Business Advisors specializes in helping small business owners minimize taxes, plan for the future, and take tangible steps that lead to growth. Contact us today to learn more.

The Vital Role of Customer ROI and Customer Experience

The customer is always right, and in the age of social media, their feedback has a big impact on your business—good or bad. That’s why every business strategy should focus on customer ROI

The proliferation of and dependence on the internet has brought many pros and cons for businesses large and small. You can more easily connect with your client base and benefit from positive reviews, recommendations, and discussions. Yet when a customer has a negative experience, a bad review can mean that a lead will opt for a competitor after researching your brand.

A report from Forrester indicates that customer experience drives revenue growth, and customer-experience leaders outperform laggards by 24 to 26 percentage points within the cable and retail sectors.

Because customer impressions have a lot of control over your business’s performance, customer ROI is one of the most important strategic considerations. The value of your offerings to the customer needs to align with cost—otherwise, customers certainly won’t be satisfied with their experience.

Learn why the customer experience and customer ROI should be top priorities for your business:

Customer ROI: An overview

Customer ROI is what your customers get out of your products or services; the value of what they paid for compared with what they actually paid for it.

You’re likely all too familiar with assessing ROI for your business, including marketing costs and how much impact they’re making. But how often do you take a step back to assess the ROI for your customers?

Focusing on the customer experience means that you’re assessing and updating your products and practices based on what the customer wants and what will satisfy them. It’s not just about making money—any successful business owner knows how important quality is to keep the lights on. But going farther than quality is providing a unique service that a customer can’t get anywhere else, even if it’s taking one extra step to show that you care.

Asking your customers for feedback is a good first step to assessing whether or not they’re happy with your business’s offerings. Send out a survey. Or implement a feedback pop-up on your website so that consumers can interact immediately when interacting with your brand—or when they’ve just purchased something.

It’s then wise to follow up after the fact to make sure they’re still satisfied. This gives you valuable data while making your customers feel valued. When this is the case, they’re more likely to make repeat purchases and recommend you to their friends and family.

Feedback and customer ROI

When you have happy customers, it strengthens your relationships with your audience while providing you important opportunities to improve aspects of the business. Satisfied customers may leave positive reviews and start good discussions about your business online, which will impact referral and recommendation rates.

In Nielsen’s Global Trust in Advertising Report, 83 percent of respondents said they trust recommendations from friends and family. One happy customer could lead to a domino effect and win you a lot more business.

In the same report, 66 percent of respondents said they trust consumer opinions that are posted online. While that’s great news for your business when you get a stellar review, it also means that negative reviews can have a major impact.

So where does customer ROI come into play? The fact is, your customers will only be satisfied if they feel that they’ve made a valuable purchase. If they feel like they paid too much for a product or service that didn’t meet their needs, they’re likely to talk about it. But if they felt they paid a reasonable price for outstanding service, then they’ll feel satisfied with their investment: the ideal customer ROI.

Customer experience and business performance

Focusing on the customer experience is directly related to performance. According to the State of CX Management report from Temkin Group, 73 percent of companies that have above-average customer experience maturity show better financial performance than their competitors.

Another report from Temkin Group showed that if customers have a “very good” experience, they’re 3.5 times more likely to make additional purchases than if they have a “very poor” experience. They’re also 5 times more likely to recommend a business if they have a very good experience.

If customers aren’t satisfied with their ROI, they’ll simply stop spending with the same brand or product. Qualtrics report entitled “What Happens After a Good or Bad Experience” showed that 22 percent of customers decrease their spending and 19 percent stop doing business with the company they had a bad experience with.

Not only do you have to worry about a blow to your reputation after bad feedback is posted and shared, but you also have to worry about the negative effects on your business performance. As a small or medium-sized business owner, you just can’t afford to ignore how important customer ROI is to your business strategy.

The team at Provident CPA & Business Advisors is here to help you with growth and profit improvement. We help entrepreneurs achieve financial freedom by putting together the business’s building blocks along the way. Contact us today to learn more about our services.