Small Business Culture and Success: Making the Connection

The thing about business culture is that it’s so hard to define – there’s no one-size-fits-all approach, and each strategy is as unique as the business it belongs to. It’s challenging for small business owners with a small staff to know where to start building a culture that breeds success. Ultimately, taking that first step for owners means a better understanding of why culture is so important and knowing which warning signs indicate a need for more work on culture strategy.

An investment in culture benefits the business, but it also serves to help owners find a better balance in their personal life. That’s what led Dr. Jeff Copeland, cosmetic surgeon and practice owner in St. Peters, to make a connection with Cornell Meyer in March of 2017. Jeff was struggling with an office culture and politics that were affecting the morale of his employees and ultimately the success of the practice. Jeff’s accountant Terry Ohlms was a client of The Alexander Group, and he recommended Jeff reach out to Cornell. 

Working together, Cornell helped Jeff realize how some of the employees were affecting the culture – and the business’s bottom line –  in a very negative way. The team had to formulate a plan to get the problem employees to change their behavior or ultimately leave the business and find a better fit. The latter meant that Jeff had to initiate some conversations with staff members, something he credits Cornell with giving him the confidence to have those tough conversations.

A bonus program for employees implemented by Jeff and Cornell supported culture-building efforts and boosted team engagement, morale, and productivity.

As Cornell coached Jeff through the personnel issues, Jeff also sought advice from his peer board. Jeff’s board encouraged him with anecdotes of similar problems in their businesses and how they were worked out. The peer board process was also helpful to Jeff because he made commitments to his board about what he would do next, and it made him accountable to get that thing done before the next monthly peer board meeting. Jeff likens it to paying for a personal trainer and following through with their guidance and advice to see a return on your investment.

Additionally, Jeff learned that delegating specific low-value tasks to employees and team members helped maximize his time with patients, another critical factor in growing his practice. 

For example, Cornell helped Jeff identify that he was burning too much time on medical insurance reimbursement tasks that could be completed by an in-house specialist – which Jeff subsequently hired. That freed up Jeff to have more time to deliver medical services, and his bottom line saw a big improvement.

Once Jeff and Cornell got a good handle on the human resources side of the business, the two began to take a closer look at the financials. During a recent interview, Jeff said this about how the work with Cornell helps improve cash flow: “Beginning to collect that information and understand all the different things that go into the worth of a company and where the money’s going and coming, makes it possible to make much better decisions about things.”

By cleaning up the financial statements and getting his books in order, Jeff could better manage cash flow in the business by getting a line of credit from the bank. Sound financial reporting also made applying for pandemic-related PPP and EIDL relief from the federal government go much more smoothly than it would have otherwise. That relief was instrumental in helping Jeff retain the employees that helped build the current culture of success; it turns out that 2021 was his practice’s best and most profitable year to date. 

Business owners who want real help to improve themselves and their business — not just a consultant to try and do it for them — can benefit significantly from hiring a business coach. Jeff needed a fresh perspective to help find the connection between culture and success. “There are a lot of things about business that I didn’t know before I started working with Cornell – things that I probably never would’ve discovered on my own.” 

Some owners still haven’t worked everything out and are putting together their ideal vision, not just for their business culture and success but also for their lives. Working with Cornell and The Alexander Group can help identify that vision and how best to transform the business to support it. Contact us today, and let’s start talking about finding the key to your business’s success!