Building a Business Culture That Lasts: It’s More Than Bean Bags and Pizza Fridays

Building a Business Culture That Lasts: It’s More Than Bean Bags and Pizza Fridays


Think “company culture” and what springs to mind? A sleek office with comfy bean bags for informal meetings, unlimited snacks, and even a slide instead of a staircase. It’s not uncommon in this day and age to throw in a ball bit, some crazy golf and a fully stocked bar, either. While these perks might give off a fun vibe and attract the interest of talent looking for quirks, they barely scratch the surface of what constitutes a company’s culture. Importantly, these perks rarely ensure that good people stay for the long haul. 


The Real Meaning of Business Culture

True business culture is less about material perks and more about the behaviours, shared values, and treatment of people within an organisation. Having navigated the turbulent waters of business ownership myself, I’ve seen firsthand how a strong culture isn’t built with snacks but with shared tears, triumphs, and support.

Forbes states that 67% of executives choose company culture over strategy or operating models. This isn’t just a fluffy statistic—it highlights culture as a business’s DNA, determining how a team interacts and performs.

Reflecting on Personal Experience

Culture is still such a buzzword at the moment. Sadly for some, this still means adding some bean bags and snacks into the mix and hoping for the best. When I founded our first creative agency in 2012, it was with the core purpose of building a business where everyone could show up as themselves, and where they would feel seen and heard. Having experienced a workplace where this was absolutely not the case, I made it my mission to do it differently.  When we closed the business in December, I hadn’t anticipated quite how emotional it would be. It was hard to say goodbye to a business we’d built from the ground up, but it was even harder to say goodbye to the people who’d come along for the ride with us. 

I made some mistakes, no doubt. There’s a lot I would go back and do differently, and are doing differently here at Alchemy. However, one thing I will always be proud of is the culture we built with the most amazing team. We did that right. I know we did that well because of the rallying cry of support when we had to let the team know the sad news. The way they all showed up during those last few days and gave us everything they had to try and wrap things up as best we could.

And tellingly, how our old team WhatsApp group is alive and kicking as we all support each other through transitions, new chapters and adventures, with the occasional drinks meet-up thrown in to put the world to rights.

Culture starts with people. It’s about shared values, behaviours, how we treat each other and attitudes. It’s never about stuff.

What Makes a Good Company Culture?

A good culture is about respect, ethical behaviour, and active engagement. It isn’t declared; it’s demonstrated daily, not just through words but through consistent actions. When we closed our business last December, the overwhelming support and unity of our team in those final days underscored the strength of the culture we had cultivated. They weren’t just employees; they were passionate participants in a shared vision.

Employees don’t just seek a paycheck from their jobs; they look for a place where they feel an integral part of the community—a place where their contributions are recognised, their voices are heard, and their presence is valued. This intrinsic need is at the heart of what drives employee engagement and satisfaction and should be a cornerstone of any effective company culture. Social media posts shouting about ‘great culture’ aren’t enough. It’s about action. 



Being seen goes beyond just being noticed; it’s about recognising the effort and achievements of each employee. This can be as simple as a shout-out in a team meeting, or as significant as a company-wide recognition in a newsletter. The key is a consistent and genuine recognition process that makes an employee feel valued for their specific contributions.

To truly hear your employees means engaging with them in meaningful ways—asking for their input on decisions that affect them and the company, and actually incorporating their feedback into your strategies. It means creating channels for open communication and ensuring they are effective and truly two-way. A culture of listening can transform a workplace, making it more adaptive and innovative.

Employees feel valued when they know that what they do matters to the success of the organisation. This can be achieved by aligning their roles with the company’s goals and showing them how their daily work contributes to the company’s mission. Training and development opportunities also play a significant role here, as they show a commitment to the employees’ growth and future within the company.

A workplace that values its employees promotes fairness, equality, and inclusivity. It’s a place where diversity is celebrated, and every employee, regardless of their background or role, feels they belong. In such environments, employees are not only more likely to stay but also thrive and contribute to their fullest potential.

Why It Matters

Focusing on these fundamental needs of being seen, heard, and valued does more than just boost morale; it drives performance. Employees who feel appreciated are more motivated, exhibit greater loyalty, and are less likely to leave. They are also more likely to go above and beyond, participating actively in problem-solving and innovation.

In the era of remote and hybrid work, these elements are even more crucial as the physical distance between teams can often lead to feelings of disconnect and underappreciation. Companies that succeed in creating a culture that deeply respects these employee needs are the ones that stand out as employers of choice, attract top talent, and maintain high levels of employee satisfaction and productivity.

Red Flags in Company Culture

Watch out for red flags like high turnover, widespread employee burnout, and superficial perks masquerading as culture. It’s easy to be dazzled by the surface but remember, if a company spends more time decorating the office than nurturing its people, it’s probably not a place with a sustainable culture.

A high turnover rate is one of the most apparent indicators of a problematic company culture. When employees frequently leave, it often suggests dissatisfaction with the working environment, lack of growth opportunities, or misalignment with company values. It’s important for companies to regularly analyse exit interview data and turnover patterns to understand the reasons behind these departures and address them proactively.

Burnout is another significant red flag and is usually a result of chronic workplace stress. Factors contributing to burnout include unmanageable workloads, inadequate resources, and a lack of support from management. Companies that fail to create a supportive environment with clear expectations and reasonable demands risk not only the well-being of their employees but also the overall productivity of their teams.

When companies are not open about their operations, decisions, and challenges, it can lead to mistrust and insecurity among employees. Transparency is key to building trust, and without it, rumours and misinformation can proliferate, further eroding the culture. Leadership should strive to be as open as possible, providing regular updates and fostering an environment where questions are encouraged and answered honestly.

A workplace that is dominated by negativity, whether from constant criticism, cliques, or a general lack of camaraderie, is a significant red flag. Such an atmosphere stifles creativity and can make employees feel undervalued and isolated. Cultivating a positive work environment where achievements are celebrated, and challenges are met with constructive feedback is crucial for maintaining employee morale and motivation.

Recognizing these red flags is the first step toward creating a healthier, more sustainable company culture. For businesses, addressing these issues is not just about reducing turnover or increasing satisfaction; it’s about building a foundation that supports long-term success and fosters a workplace where everyone is encouraged to thrive. For individuals, being aware of these signs can guide better decisions about where to invest one’s energies and talents.

How to Build a Great Company Culture

Creating a robust company culture starts with clear values and behaviours that are supported from the top down. At our company, we ensured our values were more than just posters on the walls. They were our operational playbook. Here’s a quick guide:

⭐ Define your values: The first step in building a strong company culture is to clearly articulate what your organization stands for. This involves defining core values that go beyond mere words and are reflected in every aspect of your business operations. These values should answer crucial questions about what your company believes in, what behaviours are encouraged, and what the company’s priorities are in terms of both ethics and business practices.

⭐ Lead by example: Leadership is critical in cultivating company culture. Leaders must embody the organisation’s values in their actions and decisions. When leadership behaviours align with the company’s stated values, it reinforces those values as truly central to the company’s identity and encourages employees to act in kind.

⭐ Communicate effectively: Effective communication is the lifeline of a vibrant company culture. It ensures that every employee understands their role, the company’s goals, and how their work contributes to the larger mission. Effective communication also involves transparency about business operations and decisions, which helps build trust and security among the team.

Implementation Tips:

⭐ Behavioural Expectations for Leaders: Set clear expectations for leaders to act as role models for the company’s values. Regularly evaluate leaders on how well they embody these values in their leadership practices.

⭐ Leadership Development: Invest in training and development programs that focus on ethical leadership and effective communication to ensure leaders have the skills necessary to lead by example.

⭐ Regular Updates: Hold regular meetings where leaders share important updates, celebrate achievements, and discuss challenges openly with the team.

⭐ Training Programs: Provide training to enhance communication skills across the organisation, focusing on clear, respectful, and constructive communication practices.

⭐ Value Statements: Develop clear, actionable value statements that are easy to understand and can be applied in daily operations.

Talent Attraction and Retention

To attract and retain top talent, it is crucial to create an environment that not only supports but actively champions both professional and personal growth. In this context, company culture isn’t just an internal ethos—it becomes a competitive advantage. By embedding your core values into every facet of the recruitment process, you ensure that the individuals you attract are not only skilled but also a cultural fit. 

The process of integrating your values starts with how you communicate in job descriptions, continues through the interview process, and is a critical part of onboarding new employees. It involves clearly articulating what the company stands for, not just in terms of business goals but also in how it treats its people. For instance, if a core value of your company is innovation, then job descriptions should highlight the encouragement of creative thinking and the opportunity to work on cutting-edge projects. Similarly, during interviews, recruiters can assess candidates not just for technical skills but for their ability to contribute to and thrive in a culture that prioritises innovation.

Beyond recruitment, retaining top talent requires a clear path for career advancement within the company. This means providing structured career development opportunities such as training programs, mentorship, and regular performance reviews that help employees progress toward their career goals. Transparent communication about career paths and expectations not only motivates employees but also helps them understand how they can grow within the organisation

A company that cares about its employees’ personal development offers programs that help them balance work with life’s other demands. This could include flexible working arrangements, wellness programs, and family-friendly policies. Supporting employees in maintaining a healthy work-life balance shows that the company values them as individuals, which enhances loyalty and job satisfaction.

Recognising and rewarding employees for their contributions is another key strategy for retention. Effective recognition goes beyond standard compensation and benefits; it includes public acknowledgement, career development opportunities, and other incentives that align with company values. This recognition reinforces the behaviours and practices that you want to see within your company culture.

Regularly soliciting feedback through surveys, town halls, and one-on-one meetings helps maintain an open channel of communication between employees and management. This not only helps in adjusting policies and practices to better meet employee needs but also makes employees feel valued and heard, reinforcing their sense of belonging and commitment to the company.



The strength of a company’s culture can be the difference between surviving and truly thriving. As we’ve explored, effective company culture goes far beyond surface-level perks and into the very DNA of how a business operates—emphasising respect, ethical behaviour, and a deep sense of community among employees.

From the meaningful inclusion of personal and professional growth opportunities to the genuine recognition of each individual’s contributions, a robust company culture is about creating an environment where employees are seen, heard, and valued. 

Attracting and retaining top talent becomes significantly more manageable when a company demonstrates a commitment to these values consistently, not just in words but in everyday actions. By embedding these values into every aspect of the recruitment and retention process, companies ensure that their employees are not just a fit for the job but are true ambassadors of the culture they wish to promote.

To business owners and leaders committed to building or rejuvenating their company culture, remember: this is not a one-time effort but a continual process of engagement and adaptation to the changing needs of your employees and the market. The investment you make in fostering a positive, inclusive, and growth-oriented culture will pay dividends in enhanced productivity, innovation, and loyalty, helping your business stand out as a desirable place to work and grow.

As we put the world to rights, whether in team WhatsApp groups or over occasional drinks meet-ups, it becomes clear that the heart of any company is its people. When these people are supported in an environment that respects and values them, they not only commit their talents and energies to your vision but also help carry that vision forward to new heights.

By prioritising a culture that truly resonates with everyone within the company, you’re not just building a team; you’re nurturing the leaders of tomorrow and ensuring that your company remains relevant, resilient, and respected far into the future.

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