Small but mighty: how being a B Corp shapes our culture as an SME
This B Corp month, Katie Rudin reflects on what it means to be an SME, and how our small scale and focus on delivering betters has created a culture that values both value and values!
I was recently at an event where Danna Walker, founder and CEO of Built By Us reminded us of a famous Dalia Llama quote:
For me it perfectly summarises the positive impact we are making at Akerlof.
One of the first things I remember from joining Akerlof 9 months ago was reading about their passion to deliver betters in the company handbook. I had a good feeling that Akerlof had created culture I could really get on board with.
I was making a move after 10 years at various corporate companies and so was excited about being in an SME but I was unsure about what this would mean in terms of culture and ways of working.
Being a B Corp
I soon discovered that delivering betters isn’t just a lip service here, it comes with real action. Within my first 3 months we had a B Corp workshop to check in on our progress since our certification in March 2022. B Corp is a certification by the non-profit organisation B Lab. Companies who achieve this certification have gone through a tough process to demonstrate that they meet the rigorous standards of social and environmental performance, accountability, and transparency.
In the workshop we were all encouraged to speak openly about what was going well, and what wasn’t going so well in the areas we were assessed. I was amazed by the openness from everyone in the team and an energy from everyone to grow, listen and get feedback. I was able to speak openly about topics I have felt nervous to discuss in the past, such as maternity, equity, diversity and inclusion and career development. It was refreshing and empowering to be in such an open environment.
Valuing our values
As my colleague Penny says:
And that’s who we are at Akerlof. We have grown from two to ten people in the past three and a half years. In doing so we have continued to reflect on the who, why and how of what we are doing. We know that a huge part of what makes us unique is the values we hold as a business.
Recently we held a workshop to revisit our values to make sure they align with what we value as a business. Some of the phrases ‘celebrate uniqueness’, ‘never average’, ‘results before reports’ were so good it was difficult to narrow them down. In the past I have been used to a private meeting by a board of directors deciding the values for hundreds, if not thousands, of people, which are then beamed out to the business through a corporate facilitator. Flipping this on it’s head helped us all feel aligned to the work we are doing, why we are doing it and how we go about it.
Working in a changing landscape
At Akerlof we all help to make sure we work with those who share our vision for betters. We recently launched an internal ethics committee to help us to navigate how we work within a changing social and political landscape. The purpose of the committee is to ensure that the work we do reflects our values.
During ethics committee meetings, employees at all stages of their career can provide feedback to the board of partners on projects that call our values, purpose and culture into question. The committee assesses the project’s intent, impact and integrity and whether these align with our own values. As an employee here, it is powerful to be consulted on key business decisions. Having the committee helps us to keep on true north for difficult decisions.
Have a bit of fun
We work hard, but we also make sure we enjoy working together. After all we are working with our colleagues 260 days a year (minus holidays to our favourite places: Wales, Northampton, Devon, France, New Zealand and Skye) so it’s so important to have a bit of fun.
Last autumn year we organised a trip to Snowdon with the aim of getting the insta-worthy group picture at the summit. As we ate our breakfast looking out onto gale force winds we decided that we might be best avoiding Snowdon’s peak (and a potential call to mountain rescue). Instead, we popped on our waterproofs and wellies and headed out for a short walk up a nearby hill.
The more we walked, the more it rained, and the more the paths turned to rivers. We hit a crossing which was more like a torrent than a small stream. Undeterred by the potential hazard we headed up the hill to find a crossing point, which did not materialise. A few face plants later into bog, rivers and bushes we admitted defeat and headed to the pub. In all honesty, I think us laughing the whole route round was probably more of a team building exercise than Snowdon would have ever been.
Celebrate our uniqueness
Creating the right culture as an SME takes work, but it is worth it. Our unique skills and want to strive for betters is the power we bring to the Built Environment industry. We have created a unique culture which genuinely values both value and values. Within the industry, the culture has helped us to create a buzz and be the change we want to see – a little bit like a mosquito from the Dalia Llama’s quote.
I’d love to learn how you are making a difference too. Get in touch on LinkedIn.
Read how to become a B Corp: https://bcorporation.com.au/become-bcorp/guide/overview/