Your culture is the sum of your 1:1 relationships.
Your gym culture is the sum of your 1:1 relationships with your clients.
Your staff culture is the sum of your 1:1 relationships with your staff.
Your “culture” is not how often your clients visit a bar together. It’s not how long they stick around after a workout, or even what they’ll wear to get bonus points in the Open. Your culture is relationships, and every relationship is 1:1.
You measure your culture by the LEG (Length of Engagement) of your clients. Great culture keeps clients longer.
In the Founder Phase, your culture is the sum of your relationships between yourself and your clients. You’re delivering your service yourself; if you build trust and empathy with your clients, you have a good culture.
A good relationship is a balance between friendship and objectivity. Your clients are not your friends, but your relationship must be friendly. You must stay professionally distant enough to charge money for your service; you must stay close enough to demonstrate your care. It’s not easy.
In the Farmer Phase, your culture is determined by your clients’ relationships with your team, and your team’s relationships with you.
Your team must understand your vision (we call this “The Owner’s Intent”.) They must also know that you care about their career and have a plan in place for them (we use the Career Growth ToolKit exercise in TwoBrain.) They must see the horizon and know they can achieve their career goals on your platform.
Then your team must deliver 1:1 relationships with your clients the same way you would. This is the most challenging part of being a Farmer: handing over the responsibility for client relationships. Every staff person will have different personalities, strengths, and weaknesses. For example, one might be incredible at creating workouts for clients; but might not have a strong sense of empathy. Or one might be creative but not quite organized enough. For this reason, we always build a safety net into the Farmer Phase: we add a Client Success Manager role for 2-4 hours per week.
In the Tinker Phase, your clients’ relationship should be with your brand. This means they have to align with your company’s values and vision. Now you have six relationships to manage:
Your client’s relationship with your staff
Your client’s relationship with your brand
Your staff’s relationship with their manager
Your staff’s relationship with your brand
Your relationship with your direct reports
Your relationship with your brand.
In the Tinker Phase, we tell entrepreneurs to build a managerial layer (usually a COO or General Manager; a CFO; and a CSO, or Sales Lead.) These should be the owner’s three direct reports. In turn, they translate the owner’s intent, vision and mission with staff. Good Tinkers should be removed from daily operations, but still available to staff who have unique situations. For example, the CEO shouldn’t be the one with the key to the supplies cabinet, but should still be available to listen to a staff member with concerns about their career.
The Tinker must clearly define their brand’s values. She must answer questions like:
“How does our service fulfill our goal?”
“What will we NOT do?”
“Who is our perfect client?”
“What is the perfect delivery of our service?”
“How far will we go to solve a customer’s complaint?”
She must also define the language and behavior used by the brand. For example, the Tinker must have:
A Quality Control or Evaluation process
A Style Guide for brand media
It seems like the Tinker is too far removed from client interactions to influence company culture. But that’s not true: the Tinker’s role is to define and teach the company culture to their key staff, who reinforce the culture by tracking client and staff relationships.
At this level, companies must track LEG as a measure of their client-facing culture; and they must track length of employment as a measure of corporate culture. Many businesses make wild guesses about “employee culture”, adding pinball machines and free breakfast cereal. But they fail to measure the effect of their action on employee retention. That means they’re not taking their culture seriously; they’re just trying to be as cool as Google.
Like everything else in your business, culture is measurable. That means, no matter how poor your current culture, you can improve it. The key is to focus on one relationship at a time and measure your progress.
Maybe monthly pub crawls DO build a better culture in your business. It’s possible! But unless you’re tracking LEG, you’ll never know what’s actually helping your business.
[Not sure which phase you’re in? Take the Founder, Farmer, Tinker, Thief Test here.]