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3 Critical Elements for Building a Phenomenal Company Culture

As entrepreneurs, we've set out to leave our mark on society by using our knowledge and skills to build products and services that will enhance the lives of others. When I quit my job years ago and set out on the path of owning my own business, I had no clue how to build or manage a company.

I've met mentors and seasoned entrepreneurs along the way who sliced my learning curve in half to help me build the foundation to scale my company. Without their guidance and expertise, I would not be in the position I am today, looking to grow my company and build a phenomenal team.

Although this is my first stab at scaling a company, I'm no stranger to leadership and teamwork. Throughout my lifetime as an athlete, I've been on all types of teams that ranged from less-skilled but fundamentally sound and hard-working, to highly-talented yet dysfunctional and toxic.

I believe the experiences of participating in sports beginning at an early age, through the college level, prepared me for the task of being a leader and running my own team.

One of my coaches would always say "hard work beats talent, when talent doesn't work hard." I'd never really internalized that message until now.

In business, you can build a talented team, but if your talented team isn't constantly innovating and producing results, your competition will edge you.

I've transferred the lessons I learned from athletics to entrepreneurship, and combined those lessons with my experiences of hiring thus far, to outline three critical elements for building a phenomenal company culture.

"We believe that it's really important to come up with core values that you can commit to. And by commit, we mean that you're willing to hire and fire based on them. If you're willing to do that, then you're well on your way to building a company culture that is in line with the brand you want to build." -- Tony Hsieh

Culture First

I believe people are happy and engaged at work when they are in an environment where they can use their talents and skills to contribute to the greater good - whether it's directly enhancing the life of another, or serving as an important cog in the growth of the company.

Company culture is my top priority when considering a candidate for an open position, and potential new-hires must align with our five core values. While skill-level is important, you can teach skills, but you can't teach culture. I've developed a series of behavior and value-based interview questions that give an indication of how well a potential new-hire will fit into our culture.

After the interview, if it's determined the candidate is an ideal fit for the position, I bring the new-hire onboard for a 90-day trial period as a full-fledged member of the team where we can assess their performance and how well they blend into the culture.

It's easy to be impressive on paper, and some people have exceptional interview skills. However, it's difficult to know whether a candidate truly fits and how well they work with others on the team until you can examine for yourself. The 90-day probationary period allows deep insight into a new hire's work ethic and attitude.

Lead with the heart

As a leader, it's my job to foster an ecosystem conducive to self-development and growth. In doing such, I've made a conscious decision to lead with love. Heart-based leadership is the idea that leaders can effectively lead by building powerful relationships with their teams. It's the ability to influence positive actions by nurturing a caring work environment.

I care about my team and want them to succeed in life. Ultimately, my goal is to help individuals on my team achieve their personal goals, by putting them in positions to develop the skills that will help them grow into the people they wish to become. It's also my responsibility to understand their weaknesses and challenge them to improve. I always expect excellence. Anything less is a disservice to themselves and the company.

Allow Mistakes

That said, I believe leaders should allow their team to make mistakes. There's a stark difference between a mistake and a habit. Mistakes are allowed. But if the same mistake happens more than once, then there's a pattern, and that pattern should be addressed immediately.

Allowing mistakes gives room for innovation and growth. I don't ever want my team to "play it safe." I'd rather my team try something epic and miserably fail, than scared to try anything at all out of fear of making a mistake. Mistakes happen, and sometimes we fail. I've failed miserably multiple times, but I'm still here and stronger than ever. Through failing, we learn valuable lessons.

No company is perfect, but as leaders we can strive to build an atmosphere where our teams are excited and passionate about their work.

What other ingredients make for a great company culture? I'm still learning how to be an effective leader and would love for you to share your thoughts in the comment section.

This post was originally published on The Briefcase Blog. Head over for more tips on being authentic and awesome in your business.