Culture is not just a buzzword; it is an essential element of any successful business. A company’s culture shapes its identity and influences how people interact, which ultimately impacts the organization’s success. A robust corporate culture gives employees a sense of purpose and belonging while also helping to define clear goals and values that guide decision-making. So, let’s look at how we can create a positive culture in your vacation rental business.
Step 1: It Starts With You
As the leader, you are the soul of the company. The responsibility to establish the culture of your company is yours alone. In order to lead the development and manage the implementation of the company culture, you have to ask yourself some fundamental questions about why you chose to start your business and your vision for the future. You can begin by asking yourself: Why does this company exist? What do you expect to receive?
It’s essential to recognize that culture must be genuine. If leaders attempt to build a company on practices and values they don’t espouse, they are predestined for chaos. It’s equally as important to ensure that your values align with your vision for the company. If your goal is to make money, be honest. If you are building to sell, that’s great; if you are running a business for the love of people, be just as honest. When you communicate your authentic values, you will find individuals who want to join your team because they align with the organization and believe in your vision.
Every growing company has someone who has taken charge of shaping the culture. If the leader is not cultivating the culture that fits their vision, they have left it up to chance as to who will be the chief influencer of their team’s values, expectations, attitude, and unspoken rules that become the social norms inside the company.
Step 2: Defining Company Values
The second step in establishing a cultivated company culture is defining your company’s core values. Values are your non-negotiable beliefs that shape the company’s identity and define how business is conducted. Before soliciting input from your team, you, as the leader, must determine what your non-negotiable values are for the company. The company’s values and goals should never conflict with yours. If you’re struggling to develop your values, here are a few questions you can ask yourself:
- What are the non-negotiable beliefs of our company?
- What are we willing to lose money for?
- What person or company do I admire, and what values do they display?
- What do we want to stand for as a company?
- What kind of reputation do we want to have in the industry?
- How do we want to be perceived by our homeowners, guests, employees, and partners?
- What values were broken when I was a customer at another business that made me upset?
- What ethical, moral, and spiritual principles do we want to uphold?
Once you have a list of these values, you’re ready to go to the next step of building rules and guidelines for your team to use when you’re not with them. If you have more than 10 of them, try to rank them in order of importance; the top three to five will be the ones you hold most dear.
Step 3: Develop Your Principles
There is a reason why all special operations groups worldwide have a creed. A creed or credo is a set of principles, based on the values of the unit, that teach their operators to make life-and-death decisions while conducting missions independent of leadership.
There is always a lot of confusion around the difference between values and principles. A value is a non-negotiable standard. A principle is a guideline or rule that serves as a basis for decision-making or a chain of reasoning to uphold a specific value.
Giving your team a set of principles creates a framework for them to make good decisions while they are in the field, on the phone, or speaking one-on-one with a guest or homeowner. Your principles will turn a herd of cats into a team of horses. They will pull together, have direction, and become unstoppable.
Here are some tips on creating principles:
Create specific, actionable statements that align with your values. Give each principle tangible meaning within day-to-day operations; if trustworthiness falls under one of your stated values, then creating principles focused on transparency could emphasize this value even further. They should be measurable, actionable statements that inspire people to strive for excellence and promote ethical practices.
Test your principles. Apply them to different situations and see how they hold up.
Reflect and refine. Consider how well your principles align with your values and make adjustments as needed. I like to ask my teammates which principle was exemplified when we celebrate their success in public, and I will ask which one was broken when I need to coach them in private.
Step 4: Promote, Practice, and Permit
How you implement your values impacts how team members receive and execute them. You must have buy-in, and you’ll find that it may take time until you see them go from being compliant to having conviction that your values and principles are making a difference.
Promote your values and principles by distributing them to every stakeholder, teammate, owner, guest, and even your community. This is a time when you can’t over-communicate; talk
about your values and principles so often that everyone thinks you’re crazy. When you finally see their lips moving in sync with what you’re saying because they’ve heard it so many times, you’ll have almost said it enough.
Practice is where things get real. You will have to live your values and principles every day. This consistency will be the most important thing you do and will determine your leadership’s success or failure. Your children and teammates are the first to know when you’re not practicing what you’re promoting. Yes, you are going to make mistakes. But be honest with yourself when you do. If you feel that the values and principles do not align with yours, it’s OK to go back to the drawing board and adjust as needed.
What you permit is what you promote. When the team sees you allowing others not to live the standards you’ve set forth, they will know that it’s a social norm to break the rules and go outside of the expressed values. As we said before, social norms are culture. You are the gatekeeper to the standards until the team has built such a strong culture that they self-enforce their expectations of each other.
Step 5: Create a Sense of Belonging
In the book “The Culture Code” by Daniel Coyle, he lays out the three elements that humans need to feel a sense of belonging to their tribe:
- The people here care about me.
- I see how I contribute to the success of this organization.
- I can see a better future by being with this company.
People who feel they belong will work harder, show up when needed, and always stay with you longer.
Step 6: Your Ongoing Cultural Leadership
This is an excellent time to remind yourself that your most critical leadership moments are doing the right thing, especially when you think nobody else is looking. It’s guaranteed that your team will eventually accidentally catch you in the act of excellence. When you’re a person of integrity, your leadership will earn the legitimacy that only the act of honoring your authentic values can offer in these moments.
Creating a positive and well-developed company culture is foundational to all organizational practices and defines your business’s micro and macro functions. Culture is an essential component of attracting top talent to your team and determines the quality of clients wanting to work with you. As a leader, you are responsible for setting the standards for your company culture and clearly outlining and communicating the principles that make your business exceptional with your team.
Steve Schwab is the founder and CEO of Casago, a property management and vacation rental company headquartered in Scottsdale, Arizona. Casago manages more than 4,300 units in 40 cities across the US and Mexico. Casago currently has 82 team members that have been working for more than 10 years with the company and 38 team members that have been with Casago for more than 15 years.