Do you want your business to be able to flourish—even at times when you aren't around? Nothing is more valuable than a business powered by employees as engaged and active as the owner! Inspiring that level of effort can only come from cultivating a vibrant culture inside the business.

As the owner of your business, your dedication to its mission and success is unmatched. But you can bring your teams on board and up to a similar, owner-like level of effort and passion! Here are a few ideas on how to build a culture that gets them there:

1. Cast Your Employees as Stars in a "David vs. Goliath" Movie

In 2008, Gavin Hammar started Sendible, a platform that allows companies to manage all their social media accounts from one place. The company grew steadily until it hit a sales plateau in 2016 when a large competitor entered the space. Hammar gathered his employees and explained the challenge they were facing. Rather than sugar-coating the problem, Hammar encouraged his team to think of themselves as underdogs in an us-against-the-world battle.

Hammar leaned into the company's "small business" profile and started a podcast, shared photos of his employees online, answered customer questions via asynchronous video, and sent personalized LinkedIn messages to every new customer. Considering themselves a part of a greater struggle against opposing forces, Hammar's employees followed their boss's lead and put in the extra effort to humanize themselves and the company to customers and the world at large.

Sendible started to grow again. By 2021, the company was thriving, and Hammar was able to accept a lucrative acquisition offer from ASG.

What inspiring story is your company a part of today, and how can you encourage your employees to engage in it?


2. Provide Perks Others Can't

Another way to create a thriving culture is to dig deep and dream up unique perks your competitors simply can't match.

Natalie and Chris Nagele were the life and business partners behind the software as a service (SaaS) company Postmark. Unlike many hard-driving software executives, the Nageles were committed to creating a great place to work. Rather than take on outside investment and the corresponding pressures of demanding investors, the Nageles decided to self-fund their business.

Gripped by a mission to help her employees do more meaningful work, Natalie began researching ways to inspire and motivate her staff. She came across data from the Henley Business School that suggested implementing a four-day workweek created a healthier workplace culture.  The concept struck the Nageles, and since they owned the company outright, they didn't need the permission of their board or outside investors to consider moving to a shorter workweek model themselves. After a short discussion, they went for it.

The transition to a three-day weekend had a tremendous impact on Postmark's culture. Employees could properly enjoy their work and their time off, resulting in a thriving workforce and consistent growth for the company!

What new, unique perks might you be able to offer your employees?


3. Gamify Your Business

Another way to inspire your employees to give owner-like effort is to gamify your business—much like our friend Steve Baker, Vice President of The Great Game of Business, has told us

Another example of successful business gamification is Josh Davis, founder of the freight brokering company Speedee Transport. Brokering freight is all about gross margin—the difference between what you charge the customer and how much it costs to hire a driver to move the stuff.

Rather than simply telling his employees to focus on gross margin, Davis made a game of it. He created quoting software with a virtual gross margin scoreboard for his employees to see. The software gave each employee a very public, objective, and transparent scoreboard they could follow daily to know whether they were winning or losing that day.

Davis then tied his employees' compensation to gross margin, which created a healthy competitive culture within the company.  

After gamifying his business, the company saw tremendous growth. Within two years, Speedee Transport grew from two to forty-five employees. This quickly caught the attention of an acquirer, who offered to acquire Speedee Transport for a truckload in 2019.

How might you gamify your business?


In Review

A company can be valuable on many levels—personal, in terms of its community impact, and, of course, as a financial asset. One of the secrets to building a valuable company of any kind is to nurture a healthy culture that inspires your employees to work as hard as you do, and that owner-like effort only comes from bringing your people into a shared mission and giving them a working environment that brings out the best in them!

Interested in learning more about creating a purposeful and positive culture for your teams? Check out these resources: