Building a Small Business Culture That Drives Retention

This is a guest post from Luke Miller (see bio at the end) – Thanks Luke!

Small businesses are a constant source of hustle and bustle. Unlike large companies where hundreds of thousands of customers visit multiple branches daily, every customer matters in a small business setting — and that can be the difference between making it or not. The value of customers, especially recurring customers that have great things to say about your small business, cannot be understated.

One of the largest drivers for small business success is creating a culture surrounding your small business that keeps customers coming back for more. A toxic company culture can be a death knell for many small business owners because it puts off many of the best and most loyal customers in your area. As many small business owners know, losing even one valued customer can have a cascading effect that sets the business back for weeks or months. In the small business world, one bad review can be a game changer.

For these reasons, many small business leaders approach the concept of developing a company culture with eyes wide open. They recognize that a fun, safe, inclusive environment is imperative to encouraging customer loyalty and retention. Creating a small business with a thriving culture not only drives employee and customer retention but also keeps new people flowing in. In many ways, culture can be as valuable as selling quality products.

Creating the Right Environment

As surprising as it may seem, quality company cultures very rarely happen organically. Rather, they are the result of subtle steering from the upper levels of management. Cultivating a great culture takes a bit of skill in developing the right company policies, hiring the right people, and advocating for positive changes.

Laying out a strong policy can be one of the most powerful things a manager can do to drive positive company culture development. Policies lay out some of the ground rules and force small businesses to really think about what they value. These stated values will ultimately become a driving force in many of the decisions that are made further down the road. Customers that agree with and align with the business’s values are likely to follow your business along for the ride.

The next step in developing a strong company culture is to make sure it is one that everyone feels they have a part in. Both employees and customers recognize an inclusive culture when they see one. Inadvertently alienating potential audiences because of something you don’t realize the company is doing wrong can be extremely damaging. Working to identify any hidden biases or subtle exclusion mechanisms can ultimately make a huge difference in customer attraction and retention.

Branching Out

A strong foundation is a great starting point for any company culture development. But to really garner attention and take a company culture out on the road, it is valuable to consider branching out. This can happen in any number of ways — the important thing is to choose what is right for your company and the people you are hoping to build greater retention with.

To start, you might consider a digital marketing campaign for your small business. It can be a great way to get your company’s name out there and start building greater brand recognition. This is a great opportunity to put the right foot forward and attract new customers. Doing so can expand your reach and ultimately increase the number of customers that you can retain over the long term.

One strategy can be creating an outgoing company culture, one that hosts different after-hours events and gatherings. For example, if you are a local biking shop trying to build greater community relationships and a culture of connection, perhaps you host bike rides around local trails or put on classes teaching people how to maintain their bikes on their own. These types of events can help build relationships with the local community and drive customer loyalty and retention.

Another option would be to engage more with some of your most loyal customers. Developing customer loyalty programs or reward opportunities for people that keep coming back and supporting your business can be a great way to branch out and build a culture within the community. Although getting these types of reward programs set up can be a bit of leg work, a well-designed customer loyalty program can pay dividends.

Preparing for the Unexpected

Stepping up your efforts to increase customer retention is a strong strategy and a great way to level up your business. However, it also pays to prepare for the unexpected as well. Taking a few risks is great and can really get your business moving in a positive direction, but making sure to have a backup plan if the risk doesn’t shake out is also a good move.

In today’s shaky and changing world, having a plan for economic uncertainty is one of the most valuable things you can do. This involves things such as designing a crisis management plan and an emergency fund that can help get through difficult times. Asking yourself questions like what big risks the business might be facing and what steps would be needed to prepare for a crisis are good ways to get started.

Of course, all of these plans ultimately tie back into overall customer retention. Having a strong plan for economic recovery can keep you afloat during times when even your most loyal customers are struggling to support you. They will be especially thankful when things get back to normal. Likewise, if you have a strong plan in place, you might be able to do more in the community during times of crisis. Being there for community members is a very powerful means of creating the type of company culture that retains customers over the long term.


Building a company culture that your small business can be proud of is no simple task. It takes preparation, policy updates, branching out, and the ability to come together when you are most needed. It may call for a lot of added upfront effort, but in the end, your customers will thank you for it and will show it through their loyalty to your business.

Luke Smith is a writer and researcher turned blogger. He enjoys writing on a variety of topics but business, technology, and digital marketing topics are his favorite. When he isn’t writing you can find him traveling, hiking, or getting into the latest tech.

Shawn Kinkade Kansas City Business Coach