The core principles and business practices of a company are an essential part of its DNA. The work a company's founder or founders do to develop and instill these values are a critical component of what makes a business successful. When a founder passes away, it can be a pivotal juncture for the company, and how leaders react to this loss can have a profound impact on the businesses success moving forward.
Capriotti's faced this very situation early this year when our founder, Lois Margolet, passed away. The day of her passing was a sad day for me personally and for everyone in the company, but it was also an occasion to reflect on the amazing foundation she laid for us to build on.
We've grown considerably from the original Capriotti's Sandwich Shop Lois opened with her brother in Wilmington, Delaware, in 1976. Even as we expand beyond 100 franchised locations, however, the values she established with the first location — preparing our food fresh daily and using quality, all-natural ingredients — are still at the heart of what we do.
Keeping on track through a tragedy
The first step to making sure your company's culture endures through difficult changes is to make sure it's well defined. Take time to think about what practices made the company a success in the first place and what separates your business from its competitors. Most companies will already have answers to these critical questions, but it's important to define and codify these ideals and practices. Make sure every employee, from senior leadership on down, understands your culture and core values.
Make corporate culture a prominent piece of your hiring process. Ensure new members of your team understand the culture and share in the company's values. For a franchised business, this is also a crucial part of the selection process when bringing new partners into the business.
As a business expands, it's important that certain processes change and adapt to suit the needs of a growing company. Over time it's also important for a business to remain nimble and adjusts other practices to keep up with the times and take advantage of opportunities and technologies. If you've taken the time to properly define your culture and its core values, however, you'll know which parts of the business are important to maintain even as other aspects evolve.
Take advantage of opportunities to celebrate your core values when they present themselves. A crucial part of maintaining strong company culture is demonstrating why it's important on a regular basis. Reinforce your commitment to these values with regular communication to both your leadership team and the company as a whole. Make it a cornerstone of major company meetings and communicate the ways the business is living up to its core values and the impact that commitment has on the business's success when there's an opportunity to share.
Changes, even ones as solemn as the passing of a company's founder, are inevitable for a business that grows and remains successful over time. Core values and company culture are a key aspect of maintaining success throughout these changes, and ones who take the time to understand, communicate and celebrate their culture are the ones that thrive under difficult circumstances.
About the author: Ashley Morris is the CEO of Capriotti's Sandwich Shop, a Las Vegas-based hand-crafted sandwich franchise.
Edited for length and clarity by Nicole Taylor. Have a great entrepreneurial story to tell? Contact Nicole at firstname.lastname@example.org with your pitch.