A small-business owner typically has a vision and instills it in his company even before launching it. Inside his organization, the term "organizational culture" refers to a shared set of rules and beliefs that employees teach one another. These rules are reinforced by employees' attitudes and are reflected in their work routines. As a leader, you can promote beliefs and behaviors to help employees perform according to your business model.

Cultural Web

One way to look at the culture in a business is to examine the six elements of its cultural web -- stories, rituals and routines, symbols, organizational structure, control systems and power structures. These are elements that you could find in many organizations, including small businesses. Rituals and routines are typically taught by managers and repeated in the behaviors of successful employees. If you are the manager, employees will take their cues for acceptable behavior from you and, to some extent, from your most senior workers.

Policies and Procedures

Most organizations have codified policies and procedures that inform employees how to complete work routines and make decisions within the scope of their work. If you spend time writing a manual that includes these important guidelines for work routines, you give employees a helpful information tool. If you skip this step, your workers must rely on what they can observe in successful workers.


Like a policies and procedures manual, training helps employees learn appropriate work routines, usually with the helpful advice of trainers, managers or experienced workers. A successful small business is a learning organization in which employees contribute ideas to improve work routines. Managers must balance encouraging employees to follow existing work routines and encouraging their expression of innovative ideas. They also advise trainers when it's necessary to update training to include employees' ideas.

Collaborative Culture

In a small business, it's important to avoid making the workplace culture too homogeneous. In such an environment, employees blindly follow shared work routines, and this atmosphere can stifle innovation. Create a collaborative culture in which employees can share ideas freely, even if that means they must pass them to their manager. If employees feel supported in sharing ideas, they can help the company increase efficiency, which will be a positive benefit for customers.