Small Company Culture

by Mateusz Kuczera

Published July 31, 2023

On a beautiful Tuesday morning, shortly after arriving into the Wet Plumbers’ parking, Rosie steps out of her car and heads towards her office. As she crosses the door, she bumps into Mike, a newly hired plumber, hastily walking out with a handful of used faucet cartridges.

“Mike!” says Rosie, paying attention to what Mike is carrying. “How’s it going! Such an amazing day today.”

Mike quickly glances at Rosie, lets out a “yep” then dodges her and speeds to his truck. Rosie frowns, then shrugs and slowly walks towards her chair. Through the window, Mike violently accelerates as he leaves the company’s driveway. She sits down and only then realizes what Mike had in his hands. She quickly jumps on the phone and calls Roger, the owner.

“Roger!” she exclaims. “Mike is stealing used cartridges!”

“What?” he calmly replies. “He's not stealing anything…”

“But, I saw him carrying a handful from the shop and driving off like a maniac!”

“Relax. Everything’s fine. Talk later,” he says, before hanging up on Rosie.

Taken aback, Rosie put down her handset and thinks “what is it with Roger, he never explains anything. And now he hires people just like him.”

Rosie may have jumped to conclusions, but the owner does not value clear communication, employees tend to imitate and make room for recurring misunderstandings. When it comes to small businesses, the owner plays a crucial role in shaping the company's culture and values. As such, it's not surprising that the personalities of employees in a small company tend to resemble those of the owner.

Influence in Hiring

One of the reasons for this is the influence of the owner in the hiring process. In small companies, the owner is usually heavily involved in the selection of a new employee. As a result, he may tend to hire individuals who share similar personalities, values, and characteristics to himself. This can lead to a homogenous group of employees who share similar traits and personalities as the owner or leadership team. Good or bad, this makes diversity a constant challenge. And because the owner is too busy with day-to-day tasks, he usually doesn’t take the time to train hires who don’t fit as well.

It's worth noting that the similarities in personalities may also be influenced by the fact that the owner may be more comfortable working with people who are similar to him. In small companies, where the owner has more autonomy in the hiring process, he may be more likely to select employees who have similar personalities and characteristics.

Closely Knit Relationships

Another reason for this resemblance is the direct and consistent interactions between the owner and the employees. In small companies, employees may have more direct access to the owner and may be more likely to observe his behavior and attitudes firsthand. As a result, employees may be more likely to adopt similar attitudes, behaviors, and ways of working as the owner.

The owner is usually the role model. Small company employees usually look up to the owner as examples of how to behave and act in the company, this can lead them to adopt similar attitudes and behaviors.


In small companies, the owner may have set the culture and values of the company, and employees may feel pressured to conform to those values and culture in order to fit in and succeed within the company. This can lead to employees developing similar personalities, values, and characteristics as the owner. It is therefore very important that the owner asks himself what values he wants his company to have, and behaves accordingly.

Potential Issues

Due to all these factors, several different issues can arise. Firstly, a newly hired employee, even one who performs, may feel like a misfit. Because of the difference in values and behaviours, the new employee may feel excluded and alone.

There is also the issue of trust. If the owner’s perception of the employee is skewed due to differing behaviours, misinterpretation in intent can occur, in which case the owner’s trust of the new employee will fade. Within small companies, trusting employees is on of the most important aspects. As soon as trust starts to erode, bringing it back is very difficult.

How to Avoid Issues

It is paramount for any owner to be aware of the cultural influence he has on the business and the employees. By having this in mind, the owner can then identify biases and know when his interpretation of a situation is subjective to his values and culture.

The owner must also know which values are virtuous and which are not. Yelling at employees, ignoring their concerns or interrupting them for no reason can all influence the culture, but not in a good way. On the other hand, openness to suggestions, active listening, humanity and empathy will create a culture and work environment which is harmonious to all.


There are multiple reasons why employee personalities tend to resemble the owner in a small company. This can be due to the influence of the owner in the hiring process, direct and consistent interactions between employees and the owner, the role of the owner as role models, and the culture and values set by the owner. Understanding these dynamics is important for small business owners as it can help them to identify potential issues and how to avoid them and create a harmonious and productive working environment.

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