“10 Commandments” to Create a Strong Culture for Your Business

I had weekly meetings with a very busy General Manager. People would see me stepping out of her office and ask how I was able to get one-on-one time every week with the GM. I said, “I asked.” They actually thought that was a great idea. No one had ever asked!

In preparation for these meetings, I would build an agenda all week long. I made a deal with her: instead of me coming down to her office a few times a day to ask for some information I needed, to get direction for one of my projects, or to share a marketing idea I had I would build a list of these things which would be our agenda for the meeting. In exchange for not interrupting her all week long, she would give me an uninterrupted block of time once a week. To be productive in that business environment I had to learn how to manage the GM to accomplish what I needed.

To be productive in that business environment I had to learn how to manage the GM to accomplish what I needed.

As we met and I shared ideas I had come up throughout the week and went over the list of questions I had compiled, I began to see patterns. She was sharing an issue that had come up on the sales floor and had to decide which employee was in the right. I simply looked at her and said: “Well, what does the Policies and Procedures manual say?” She looked at me like I was speaking a foreign language. I said, “We do have a P&P, right?!” I quickly figured out that this business with 100 employees did not.

*Note: This post involves two lists: #1. P&P – a list of employee and business situations that arise, #2. Your 10 Commandments – a list of attitudes and actions expected of employees

There were issues like the one she was dealing with that came up regularly. I told her I could easily start a P&P for the business in a couple of days if she wanted. I told her “As situations like this come up, simply add them to the already compiled list of situations in this rule book that will be created.” I told her the best way to get this started is to think back on employee situations the company had to deal with like this:

  • An employee verbally asked a manager for the weekend off and was told it was okay, but no one except the employee remembers having this conversation. Now the business is short-staffed.
  • An employee was on a sales phone call and their coworkers in neighboring cubicles were playing around, yelling and laughing loudly, and the employee couldn’t hear the customer to complete the sale.
  • Two employees are claiming that a sale belongs to them. One says they started the order, so it’s theirs. The other says there was no information in the order and they did all the work and finished the sale so it belongs to them.

Create Your 10 Commandments List

After making this list of business issues set it aside for a moment to build a second list. This new list is your 10 Commandments list. This will help guide you through the process of building your P&P manual. It will communicate what attitudes and actions are important to you as a GM or owner.

For instance, if someone is looking to get married in the future, they might sit down and make a list of things they’re looking for in a lifetime partner: smart, funny, honest, loyal. You can do this same thing for your business by answering questions like “What characteristics should our business look for in a potential hire?” and “How do we expect our employees to treat customers and each other?”

You can use your 10 Commandments as a culture list to guide you as you respond to situations like those listed above. Here are three examples of things a business might include in their 10 Commandments:

  1. “We over-communicate” – When communication is important, we make sure there is a record of it, and that we clearly communicate what we want or need.
  2. “We respect each other” – We consider others’ needs over our own.
  3. “We work hard” – We seek to do as much as possible, not as little as possible. We always give our best work.

Add More Specific Scenarios

As you begin to build your list of “10 Commandments” (it doesn’t have to be exactly 10), go back through the list of issues that we first listed and begin to add these details and scenarios to your P&P. It might look like this:

  • Scenario #1 “We over-communicate” – When an employee wishes to request time off, they must verbally communicate with a manager. After that manager agrees, the employee must send that manager an email so that there’s an electronic record of the interaction. The manager must then reply to that email with official approval. The request is not approved until the manager replies to the email.
  • Scenario #2 “We work hard” – Any employee requesting time off must find their own replacement so that their shift is covered. Just like with our vacation policy the employee must have both verbal and email interaction with their co-worker who is covering their shift. This information must also be forwarded to the manager so that they know all shifts are covered.
  • Scenario #3 “We respect each other” – The sales floor is a professional environment and is expected to be treated that way. It’s important that we are aware of the needs of our customers and coworkers, and create an environment that makes it easy for everyone to succeed.
  • Scenario #4 “We work hard” – Although the first employee did begin the order so that they can claim ownership of it, they did no work to close the sale. There was not even a single item listed in the order. This order will be split, but in the future, there must be at least one item listed in an unfinished order for the original employee to claim it as their own.
  • Scenario #5 “We respect each other” – It is not respectful to your coworkers to do the minimal amount of work, so that you get credit for the sale, while they are having to complete the entire order on your day off when the customer calls back.

You are the leader, the Moses of your business, and as such you get to etch the 10 Commandments of your business. Building this list and sharing it with everyone will help to begin to set the culture of your business.

Building this list and sharing it with everyone will help to begin to set the culture of your business.

You can then use these broad principles to start your P&P manual. This manual is a rulebook or Bible that simply answers the questions: “How do we do business? What do we do in this situation?” As situations arise, consult your list of 10 Commandments. Display them prominently around the building for both your employees and customers to see. When a decision is made, simply add that to your P&P to communicate clearly to employees what is expected of them.

Doing this will help lessen frustration since employees won’t have to guess what’s expected of them. Also, this is respectful to employees because they can see that you were willing to take the extra time and effort to put this together when it would have been easier for you to just make rules up on the fly.

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