How to Retain That ‘Small Business’ Feel as Your Company Grows

retaining small business feel

Some of the best parts about having a small business are the benefits that it brings to employees: more equity, a hand in the decision-making process and smaller teams, just to name a few. Although the successful growth of your business is something to celebrate, day-one employees may eventually come to miss the small business feeling that they signed on for.

To that end, members of Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) weighed in on the following question:

“When it comes to company culture, many employees value the ‘small business’ feel. What’s one way a company can retain that feeling even as it grows? What steps can they take?”

Here’s what they recommend you do to help retain that close-knit company culture.

1. Give Personalized Gifts

“Utilize the long-forgotten art of special gift giving! As your company grows, your employees can feel like they’re less important than they used to be. Putting some thought into a special gift for that person, that’s uniquely picked for them, shows them that you understand who they are, what they like and dislike and that you’re still thinking of them. Work anniversaries are the best!” ~ Jonathan Sparks, Sparks Law

2. Host an Event

“My company has held an annual event called ‘Customer Service Week’ since we started. We’ve grown a lot over the past 18 years, but we continue to make this event a priority because everyone has so much fun. Granted, it is more labor-intensive and expensive to buy prizes and put games together with more employees participating, but we do it because we want them to know how much we care about them.” ~ Kristy Knichel, Knichel Logistics

3. Respect Their Time and Abilities

“Don’t overload your employees with clients and assignments. This situation can happen when you acquire too many clients in a short period of time or when you merge companies. An employee ideally wants to perform their best, and receiving double or triple their workload can make them feel like a cog in a machine that underachieves. Grow gradually with respect for their time and abilities.” ~ Duran Inci, Optimum7

4. Ask for Employee Feedback

“Ensuring all team members feel heard and valued is an effective way to improve company culture. For example, letting your team know that their feedback is always welcome can help enhance organizational culture.” ~ Kristin Kimberly Marquet, Marquet Media, LLC

5. Have Regular Check-Ins

“Create an environment of open communication where everyone feels like they can reach out and voice their concerns or opinions. Early on in their employment, make sure they meet with all levels of management and then maintain a process of regular check-ins with various levels. Having a strong one-on-one check-in process allows everyone to feel valued, like their opinions matter and like they are part of the team.” ~ Zane Stevens, Protea Financial

6. Create Small Teams

“One way companies can retain that small business feeling even as they grow is to divide their different company areas into different teams and allow each team to have its unique ‘essence.’ But, at the same time, always stay true to the core company values and keep the ‘feeling’ alive of being part of the whole.” ~ Alfredo Atanacio, Uassist.ME

7. Give Bonuses or Awards

“In the new post-pandemic era, company culture is often lacking but so important to address. As your company grows, the lack of company culture is magnified in the new remote world. To keep things exciting, I suggest you have monthly company awards and bonuses per division recognizing standout employees. This will keep things fresh and have employees over-performing and looking forward to work.” ~ Michael Sinensky, WeShield

8. Cut the Red Tape

“As we have grown, the biggest thing our employees want to continue to do is have an impact and be heard. If we need to make a change, there should not be levels and levels of red tape. Change can be free-flowing and have quick rollouts, which helps with the small business feel. By celebrating the positive steps and giving credit to the people making them, we empower future attempts as well.” ~ Marjorie Adams, Fourlane

9. Be an Approachable Leader

“Employees shouldn’t feel like they’re working for someone they cannot see or talk to. Owners and managers need to focus on relationships. Treat employees like human beings who matter rather than parts of an assembly line. Celebrate wins. Remain approachable. Ensure that employees know they are necessary and that you respect and appreciate the work they do.” ~ Jared Weitz, United Capital Source Inc.

10. Introduce New Projects

“When you start having more employees and management layers, your small company can become a drag if you let it. People need a sense of advancement and development to stay excited and motivated. Make sure to change things up — introduce new projects and keep people learning and growing. Keep up a fast pace by celebrating traction and wins and by highlighting people who go above and beyond.” ~ Miles Jennings,

11. Treat Your Employees Well

“You can keep a small business feel to your company by always putting the people first. Your customers and employees are not numbers there to help your pockets grow, so when you appreciate their efforts and hard work, it helps to keep a positive atmosphere. Positive company culture will reflect in the quality of its output, so it’s important to treat people well.” ~ Jared Atchison, WPForms

12. Be Fair and Kind

“You can retain a valuable company culture by practicing fairness and equal treatment for every employee. It’s important not to play favorites no matter what your personal feelings are. It’s unethical to treat one person better or worse than another in the workplace, so you can create a special, small business type of feel by treating everyone with the same kindness and fairness.” ~ Stephanie Wells, Formidable Forms

13. Stay Connected to Employees

“Business owners need to take the lead and stay connected with employees no matter how much the business grows. Reply to questions on Slack, join in on casual discussions, share something spontaneously. Little actions like these add up and show people that you’re still connected. And such gestures reinforce the small business feeling and that communication matters.” ~ Syed Balkhi, WPBeginner

Image: Depositphotos

The Young Entrepreneur Council The Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only organization comprised of the world's most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, YEC recently launched StartupCollective, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses.