As we continue with our theme of teamwork and company culture here on the blog, Josh Bolland from J B Cole has shared his story of building a successful company culture along with 9 tips for creating a corporate culture that lasts.

J B Cole is a Manchester based digital technology consultancy specialising in B2B growth and digital strategy. Established in 2010 by founders Josh and Ollie Bolland, the business has grown tremendously with their client portfolio consisting of big names such as Nokia Music, The NHS, ITV Studios and many more. Take a look at how they have built a successful corporate culture and tips for how you can too.

The team at JB Cole in their personalised AWDis College Hoodies

10 years ago, I founded J B Cole as a naive, young and less beardy version of myself. Whilst starting your own business straight out of 6th form is a challenge, it’s one that actually comes with a fantastic, educational journey giving you the chance to learn by simply being in the mix.

It’s a challenge that I’m now immensely grateful I took on

Credit: Twitter // @JBColeUK

Credit: Twitter // @JBColeUK

Starting life as a photography / graphic design business (before we knew what an agency was) over the years, the business has taken many shapes as we’ve gained more experience and honed our expertise in the sector that encompasses our world today – digital.

As a business that started out with just 1 person, that grew to 2 people, then expanded to 10 and continues to grow, we’ve learnt a lot from the successes, the failures, the doings, the wrongs, rights and everything in between. All of which points back to one thing – we’re a people business first, and a digital / technology business second.

Who are we and what do we represent to those people? Why do people choose to work with us or for us? These are questions we’re proud to continually hear the answers to as we now adopt an ongoing feedback loop from both our team and our clients in order to ultimately make sure we’re doing it right.

We recently introduced a handy system called OfficeVibe which allows us to continually track anonymous feedback from our team through regular NPS (net promoter score) based surveys. I’m proud to say, that our metrics are great with an average score between 8.5-9/10 and these remain high as the business expands.

So how have we built our business culture?

It’s a hard one to nail down and define the culture of any business.

You can try and force a culture – and the founders dictate a lot of this in the early stage of a business – but that has a limit and I personally believe it’s more about providing a guideline and building an environment that allows the culture to define itself through growth. As we understand from our continual feedback; it’s more than just a cool office and beers on a Friday that helps shape this – though that does of course help.

As a number of businesses take bold moves to improve their company cultures for the future such as three or four day working weeks, introducing charitable time during office hours or working remotely, I’ve looked into what really makes our culture one that our employees love.

1. Offer continual development for your team

One of the most important things we hear time and time again is that our team are excited about continually developing their skills. As a business, it’s imperative that we enable a culture of ongoing learning so that the team feels like it’s making progress and can learn on the job.

Setting aside a budget for this, putting on lunch and learns (group learning sessions with the team over lunch) and activating resources like Udemy or HubSpot learning resources all really help to keep the team moving forward. It’s also key to define targets throughout as well as offering the chance to attend courses to help with larger learning requirements.

Credit: Twitter // @JBColeUK

2. Carry out regular one to ones

Build in regular check-ins with the team at the same time and date every month. Allow people to be honest and create an environment for them to feel comfortable to do so.

We have found that having open, honest conversations regularly makes the team feel more in control and allows them to provide continual feedback for ongoing improvements. Make sure to set these in the diary and don’t miss or be late to your one to ones. Everyone’s time is important!

Credit: Twitter // @JBColeUK

Credit: Twitter // @JBColeUK

3. Take on the right projects

As a business grows, this is a challenging one. Do you take on that project even though it doesn’t match your qualification process? Sometimes, the reality is; yes this needs to happen, but please do approach with caution!

There can be nothing more toxic to your team than a bad client experience or project that sucks the life out of the day to day on the job. You should love going to work, not dread it! After feedback, one of our team recently said; ‘It’s easy to do a good job because I love what I do’. This is what you want the whole team to feel all the time, so make sure they genuinely love what they’re doing and keep asking them.

Credit: Instagram // @jbcoleuk JB Cole recently worked with the NHS to improve their photo security

4. Be nice!

There is nothing simpler than just being plain nice to people. You can still be assertive without being rude or confrontational. Obviously, you have to make firmer decisions as a leader when the time calls for it, but generally, people will respect your authority more if you can approach it nicely and honestly. People are people, be nice and it will keep rewarding you.

Credit: Instagram // @jbcoleuk

5. Let everyone be creative

Don’t hold back creativity. We have a set of defined values as a business that we discuss with new team members when they join us. One of the core aspects of this is: No idea is a bad one.

We want our team to feel empowered to make decisions and come up with ideas without the fear of being told it’s wrong or that it’s a bad idea. There is nothing that hinders creative thinking more than strict guidelines and ones that don’t allow you to really break the mold.

In a services business, budgets are super important, but try and find a balance between the finances and creativity of a project. We don’t grow as a business because clients love how considerate we are with their budget (though obviously, this is important). They do so because we provide a fantastic service for the investment they make with us.

Credit: Instagram // @jbcoleuk

6. Be flexible

The workforce is changing in the UK. To get the best talent, I don’t believe that you can stick to a 9-5 in the office mentality anymore. Whether offering flexible or remote working, people have lives outside of work and this should be their key priority.

By having a good life outside work, you’ll get better productivity in work! If that means people aren’t in the same space all the time or work their breaks around the school run, giving flexibility allows your team to be more effective with the time they can give.

Credit: Instagram // @jbcoleuk

7. Hire for personality not just skill

Hiring for culture fit is so important. We don’t take on anyone who we don’t think would work well in with the team. Skills can be taught, but being a good person who works well within a team often can’t!

Sometimes people just don’t work for your environment. This means it’s so important to get the balance right between skill and personality because an upset balance can prove toxic quickly and crumble the culture your team has taken time to develop.

Credit – Twitter // @JBColeUK – ” We don’t take on anyone who we don’t think would work well in with the team.”

8. Reward. Randomly.

I am a firm believer in rewarding people for continually doing good jobs. At J B Cole, we reward continual good work or great outputs, but we do it randomly and it’s not always a financial exchange.

Introduce novelty ways for the team to be recognised such as paying for a team member to fly back to Spain for a week to work where his family live or pay for a team member and his wife to go for a meal of their choice and help with babysitting arrangements for example. The personal touches make people feel cared about.

Shared recognition and internal awards are also a great way for the team to feel recognised and appreciated. Money is money, but the thought really does count!

Credit: Twitter // @JBColeUK

9. Be supportive

It’s sometimes tough working in a growing business. Weeks can be volatile at times and it can be very busy in peak months. As a managing director or part of the leadership team, it’s imperative to continually support the team through these tougher times (and all the other times too).

This is key. Feeling supported by leadership keeps up morale and makes team members feel a little less pressured. I don’t mean to take on everyone’s work but always look to provide additional resource or help come up with a solution to a challenging situation.

It’s so much more than building a culture for social media, which is often seen as the cool and current way to do things. The long and short in my view is that as leadership you have to help set up a company culture that you would like to work in and that represents you and your values. You should then build in team members around this, be flexible, and empower your team to continually improve and evolve this themselves.

Once you have this established, write up a culture guide for your organisation and share this with your team to get the culture flourishing!

To find out more about J B Cole, their culture and the services they offer visit jbcole.co.uk