Your clinic is growing. Not a bad problem to have. But a growing practice does pose some challenges when it comes to maintaining your already great company culture. In fact, it poses quite a few challenges. After all, it’s easy—well, easier—to create and keep a cohesive culture in a small, core team. Once you start forgetting names, however, it’s a whole different story. There’s hope, though. Here are four ways to maintain company culture as your practice grows

1. Listen, Then Communicate
In 2012, just three years after launch, marketing software HubSpot had grown by 800%, and during the years preceding, there was frustration in the ranks about a new company policy. How did CEO and CO-Founder Brian Halligan handle the situation? According to HubSpot Project Manager Karen Rubin, the author of this article, Halligan took the “influencers and loudmouths” out to dinner. During dinner, he listened, asked questions, and then listened some more: “He spent time just listening, not interjecting his own thoughts, so he could learn more and find effective solutions.” Once it was time to communicate, Halligan ensured that he and his entire leadership team were on the same page—that they could all “articulate the reasons” behind the decisions.

 

According to consultant Carlo Demaio, “As a business grows, there is the potential for company hierarchy to dilute healthy communication and an individual’s perception of impacting the business through access to senior leaders.” In other words, as you add more levels between the owner of your practice and the staff, employees may begin to feel less and less involved—and that will definitely take away from the culture you’ve worked so hard to create. To keep everyone connected, Demaio says it’s all about opening the lines of communication.  It “might be as simple as an ‘open-door policy’ or more structured methods like scheduling time for employees to share improvement ideas.” Just keep in mind that even though your employees may be aligned in culture and values, each of them may have his or her own individual communication style. Try to tailor your processes to address these differences.

According to this article, when Foursquare Co-Founder Dennis Crowley started his company, “he hired friends he knew could foster the kind of open sharing that continues to be a core value, with 135 people now working in three separate offices.” Today, Crowley holds office hours once a week to hear from anyone who wishes to bring “ideas and feedback straight to the boss.” Crowley also uses technology, like iPads, to conduct virtual meetings for anyone not based in his New York office.

2. Measure Morale
With a team you can count on your fingers, it’s pretty easy to gauge employee morale. After all, you probably have time to have at least a few conversations with each person throughout the week as well as watch their interactions with one another. Once your numbers begin to climb, however, this level of observation drops significantly.

That’s why HubSpot implemented a measurement system. “Measuring culture is hard, but finding ways to gauge employee happiness helps us understand when we’ve hit a speed bump and if we have successfully moved beyond one,” Rubin writes. HubSpot uses the Net Promoter Score method every six months, asking employees two questions: “How likely would you be to recommend working at HubSpot to a friend?” and “Why?” (For reference, here’s an article about how Phillips uses the NPS tool to measure customer happiness.)

3. Lead by Example
As Demaio points out, “culture is your brand,” it is the way in which you “differentiate yourself from your competitors,” so live the values you’ve set, across the board, in all interactions, both inside and outside the office. “As leaders,” he says, “You will initially have the most impact on shaping the culture,” so shape it right. And it’s going to take more than just saying the words. Your employees will look to you for guidance and to gain a better understanding of what behaviors align with the company’s values—and what behaviors don’t. If you’re not a model example, not only are you sending confusing mixed messages to your staff, but you’re also appearing rather hypocritical—neither of which is good for your culture or morale.

4. Hire and Structure Well
We’ve touched on this in several previous articles (like this one and this one), and we’ll continue to do so because, well, it’s just that important. The people you bring into your company can make or break your company culture—and fast. This is especially important to note as you’re growing because you may not feel like you have the time to spend on diligent hiring. After all, you’ve got openings to fill and money to make. But in the long run, you’re going to spend even more time and money tending the weeds—those employees who don’t align with your company values. “While experience and professional background is always crucial,” Demaio says, “Seek like-minded individuals who aspire to a similar company vision, beliefs, and way of working.”

In addition to hiring the right people, it’s also crucial to put people in the right roles. When WebPT Co-Founders Brad and Heidi Jannenga began to grow their company—from three employees to almost 200 in five years—they were determined not to let it become another heartless corporation. But they knew they couldn’t manage the company’s culture along with their own ever-growing responsibilities. So, they hired a Culture Captain, whose sole responsibility is to ensure that the company never loses its employee- and customer-centric core values.

Seattle-based Urbanspoon has grown from three employees to more than 70, but it also still manages to stay true to its roots. According to Kara Nortman, SVP of consumer businesses for Urbanspoon’s parent company IAC, much of their cultural success comes as a result of the company keeping team sizes small. “Even if you become bigger,” she says, “You should size your teams so they have a clear feeling of ownership. That’s instantly more important than a boss telling you what to do.”

Looking for a few more tips? Inc. published Chief Culture Officer Paul Spiegelman’s strategy for maintaining culture as he took his company from three to 400 employees. He:

 

  • Only hired leaders who believed
  • Showed people he really cared
  • Rewarded and recognized consistently
  • Created a “recipe book” (his version of a culture handbook)
  • Established customs

 

How have you maintained your practice’s culture as you’ve grown? What do you wish you had done that you didn’t? What might you do differently in the future? Tell us your thoughts in the comments below.

 

Physical Therapist Salary Guide - Regular BannerPhysical Therapist Salary Guide - Small Banner
  • Employee Engagement: Your Most Important Business Initiative Image

    articleJul 5, 2018 | 5 min. read

    Employee Engagement: Your Most Important Business Initiative

    What single business initiative can make your employees want to work harder for you, while inspiring them to be happier than ever with their jobs? Hint: The answer is not more money . The answer is increasing employee engagement . This is possibly the single most important part of an owner or manager’s duties. To tackle this job, we must start with creating unparalleled company culture . Wikipedia defines company culture as “the character of the organization; …

  • 5 Ways to Bring Your Company Culture to Life Image

    articleJan 22, 2014 | 5 min. read

    5 Ways to Bring Your Company Culture to Life

    Too often, company culture is like a bad romance; it starts out hot but later fizzles when other distractions get in the way. Like any lasting relationship, though, an enduring company culture requires a continuous investment of time, effort, and attention. Sure, it’s important to identify and record your cultural values , but words without action are just letters on a page. Culture—at least the kind you want—doesn’t just happen on it’s own. It’s up to you …

  • Up and Leave: What to Do When a Therapist Quits Image

    articleJun 26, 2018 | 5 min. read

    Up and Leave: What to Do When a Therapist Quits

    Breakups are never easy. Even if it’s an amicable split, it’s hard not to look back on your time together and wonder what could’ve been. But here’s the good news: if you approach a breakup from a place of maturity and wisdom, you can learn some valuable lessons and apply them to your next relationship. Of course, the relationship I’m referring to in this post is the one between a rehab therapy practice manager and his or …

  • Hiring for Cultural Fit Image

    articleJan 21, 2014 | 7 min. read

    Hiring for Cultural Fit

    If you’ve been following our blog posts this month, you might’ve noticed a recurring theme—besides company culture in general—and that’s the importance of hiring the right people for your practice. From the cost of recruiting, screening, and interviewing to the cost of onboarding and training, hiring is a huge investment for companies, and if you don’t hire the right candidates, it can come at a big expense. According to a 2012 CareerBuilder poll , 69% of companies …

  • 4 Reasons Your Staff Therapists are Unmotivated Image

    articleJun 7, 2018 | 5 min. read

    4 Reasons Your Staff Therapists are Unmotivated

    Treating patients is equal parts challenging and rewarding, which is one of the reasons physical therapy is such a fulfilling profession . But if you’re noticing that your therapists’ motivation is lagging a bit, it’s important to understand why. Here are four reasons why physical therapists’ motivation can decrease, as well as steps you can take to make things better.   Their compensation is based solely on productivity. The Problem Nobody likes being reduced to a billing …

  • Four Ways to Fix a Broken Company Culture Image

    articleJan 16, 2014 | 6 min. read

    Four Ways to Fix a Broken Company Culture

    So, you read yesterday’s post , and maybe, just maybe, a red flag—or eight—jumped out at you, felt a little too familiar, or possibly even gave you the chills. And now, you’re beginning to worry because you’re seeing signs that your culture isn’t up to snuff everywhere—in your front office and your treatment area, with your suppliers and your patients. Well, set your worries aside. Of course, a less-than-stellar culture isn’t ideal, but there’s still hope—and time—to …

  • Creating a Culture Commitment: How to Document Your Practice’s Core Values  Image

    articleJan 14, 2014 | 5 min. read

    Creating a Culture Commitment: How to Document Your Practice’s Core Values

    Yesterday, I explained the importance of establishing and defining your practice’s core values —the foundation of your company culture. At the end of that post, I asked you to identify your practice’s core values and jot down rough definitions for each. Today, I’ll discuss how to document those values and their definitions in a well-written, easily distributable format. Why Before I leap into the how, though, I want emphasize why you should document your practice’s core values. …

  • 6 Ways to be the Healthcare Partner Your Patients Want Image

    articleMay 4, 2018 | 7 min. read

    6 Ways to be the Healthcare Partner Your Patients Want

    If you’ve ever been ballroom dancing, then you know how important it is to communicate effectively with your dance partner. Heck, even if your experience with whirling around a dance floor is limited to weddings and high school proms, you surely know that dance partners must move together to avoid stepping on each other’s toes. It may not seem like it, but as a rehab therapist, you share a similar goal to waltzers and fox-trotters everywhere. That’s …

  • How to Create an Employee Recognition Program that Works Image

    articleJan 28, 2016 | 2 min. read

    How to Create an Employee Recognition Program that Works

    Forget about employee-of-the-month parking spots. Here’s how to give your employees the appreciation they really want. As a leader, it’s up to you to keep your staff happy and motivated. One of the easiest—but most often overlooked—ways to do that is through something I call Active Appreciation. Receiving recognition for a job well done feels good—we all know this. And a little intentional appreciation—above and beyond high-fives and gold stars—can go a long way toward increasing employee …

Achieve greatness in practice with the ultimate EMR for PTs, OTs, and SLPs.