Business Culture : An Introspection

Business culture is a strange thing – you hear about it a lot, but until you actually work in a few companies you don’t realise how different it can be from company to company.  It’s even stranger when you are the owner and thus the person who is actually responsible for creating and developing that culture.  It’s never something I’ve actually thought about in much detail, but with a pair of new employees and the potential of more employees in the future, I’ve started considering the kind of work environment and the people I actually want to hire into the company.

I’ve had bad experiences with a bad ‘fit’ for the company, as well as a clash between expectations.   At the same time, coming from an Asian background, I sometimes have a different view of ownership, business work ethics and relationships than most North Americans.  The difference can be subtle, but it does crop-up and can be jarring since my emotional & mental perspectives can also be completely different.

A really easy example is the workweek; to me 50 – 60 hours is a normal workweek.  Mentally, I understand this isn’t normal and mentally, I completely agree.  Emotionally on the other hand, I find it strange to not be working those hours – or for employees not to be voluntarily doing so either.  And to add another strange twist, I want and try to push for an ‘objective’ based sense of employment where the goal is to get the work done, not the number of hours you put in.  I did mention that I was confused about this right?

So, what is it that I’m trying to build? Here’s my current thoughts:

Ownership

Employees should feel ownership of their tasks and responsibilities.  Part of that means giving them the tools & rights to make the decisions and part of it is realising that I can’t jump down their throats if they do make mistakes.  A couple of quick examples include giving Kaja a petty cash allowance for office items and letting the employees know to fix the customer mistakes first, tell me later.

Free flow of information

Within reason, I’m working on sharing company financials and details with employees (and customers).  If they understand our financial position, our margins and growth, they also can make rational decisions for the company (e.g. fixing orders).  It also means I leave an ‘open door’ policy to my employees – even if the ‘door’ is my phone.

Fun

Hey, we work in a game store. Online maybe, but still a game store.  So let’s enjoy ourselves.  I don’t want to create a too formal culture, which means jokes are okay and chit-chat is fine so long as the work gets done.  I don’t expect to be bosom buddies with the employees, but at the least the office should be mostly free of politics.

What’s Missing?

Those of you who read or have dealt with previous ‘company values’ documents might realise we have nothing stating ‘Customer first’ or the like.  That’s mostly because I’m leery (okay, cynical) about those statements.  Are customers important? Of course, they pay the bills.  Some are even great people and friends now.  However, I’m not sure that’s a ‘value’ in a company as a process – do what you can, when you can, within reason for the customers.

4 thoughts on “Business Culture : An Introspection”

  1. I think sharing some of your financial information could be of benefit to those interested. I know that Fred Hicks (http://www.deadlyfredly.com/tag/sales-numbers/) posts sales numbers for the games from his company (though, little other information) and it’s pretty interesting to see how the games are doing against each other and even historically.

    Sharing too much about your financial position is also a risk. Competitors will see what you’re doing (ie, where you’re saving $) and strive to copy your model. Heck, some people think that if the company they buy from makes a profit, it’s some sort of slight against them or something.

    Personally, I’d love to see monthlies of total units moved, average ticket size, top 10-20 individual SKUs, and bundling trends.

    1. Yes, competition is probably my biggest concern. Customers are generally pretty reasonable, especially gaming customers.

      We do the top 10 SKUs right now (see Bestsellers) along with our pre-order list. Totals of units moved is a bit more interesting, I’ll have to think about that. Average ticket size is actually quite misleading, we get bumps – lots down in the $35 – 40 range (single games, Settlers, Carcassonne, etc) and then lots again at the $180 range (free shipping) with a through in the middle. So the average number would make little sense – and the full chart would be a tad too revealing for my taste. One thing I might do though is run some numbers for a series of games to give a chart of sales per unit over time. That I think would be interesting and isn’t going to cause us any issue.

    2. Our experience – depends on the number of expansions. If it’s just 1 or 2 expansions, the base does go up in sales. If it’s something like Carcassonne or Arkham Horror, not so much. If it does move it, it’s at a level that we haven’t noticed by eye.

  2. Good point on the average ticket!

    It would be interesting to watch units of something like Arkham Horror or Carcassonne and the Expansions over time – does the release of a new expansion bump the base? The other expansions?

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