Culture – Where does it come from?
Culture, for startups, is largely an output of its people. A startup with experienced people will draw on established best practices, where a company full of people new to the workforce will tackle problems based on intuition and extrapolation from first principles.
Culture is set early and difficult to change. It is not HR, not foosball tables and free beer. Culture is a great office environment and is set by how the company does its work, how it communicates, and who it recognizes and rewards.
Startup – Not everyone’s cup of tea
A startup’s environment is absolutely dynamic. Unlike seasoned companies that have well-defined processes and procedures and hundreds of employees conditioned to repeat the same behaviors day after day, startups can be susceptible to unforeseen changes. Large companies do not expect their employees to be instruction led. But at startups, employees have to work around shorter deadlines, learn skills on the go and introduce best practices.
Many freshers join startups with a desire to explore the ecosystem but soon realize they cannot handle the pressure. Most of the startup employees do not care about building that NEXT BIG THING. They only consider it as a learning experience to move to cushier jobs.
Culture – Gone wrong
When people think of ‘company culture,’ images of colorful office spaces, team activities and free booze come to our minds. These perks are nothing but manifestations of culture. Over time, even the prospect of a free massage gets a little old.
The company’s culture can make or break your venture. People who stick with you for the long run are looking for a vision that resonates with their own personal values. If the company’s culture contradicts with what the individual believes in, there is absolutely no chance for cultural alignment. Giants like Volkswagen and Wells Fargo are prime examples of how poor leadership and scandals have reduced valuations by billions of dollars.
Founders – Role in Culture Building
A company’s culture is set by its leaders starting with the founders. Their behaviour sets an example to the rest of the team, and the rest of the team models it.
It is important to recognize that different companies need different cultures. A company which is into sales and marketing will need an extroverted culture while XYZ requires a quieter and considered culture. So, understand what your culture needs to be, to accomplish your business goals and build value around it.
Culture starts developing the day the team starts working together. The entire team should monitor it carefully and build the culture deliberately.
Expanding the team
Startups must look for cultural fit in individuals just as much as they look for skill. The founding team should search for employees that counter-balance their own personalities, get more diversity and shore up weaknesses. They should carefully expose the attributes they want people to emulate and control the ones they don’t want. Instead of simply hiring people they know, the founders should explore a variety of networks to get more diversity of background.
Be a leader
Founders are always watched. Minute details about them like what they choose to talk about, who they reward, how they respond to circumstances set the culture. Their behaviour and even something as small as their body language can influence the entire team.
Actual and Aspirational Culture
You cannot spread the culture by writing down some values and putting them up on walls. The team would lose faith if the propagated culture doesn’t match the actual working style. Ensure that you’re clear when talking about your aspirational culture and bridge the gap with your actual culture.
While rewarding people, instead of looking at performance against duties, look at the team’s contribution to the culture. If the employees are unable to build desired values, the founding team must take the responsibility to solve them and not just hope they resolve themselves. In extreme cases you may even need to fire people who do something radically counter to the culture, especially if they disrespect a coworker or customer.
As companies change, cultures need to change. What worked before may not work in the future, so the team needs to keep asking if the culture is working and dynamic.
Culture- A Startup’s Greatest Asset
Exceptional culture produces lucrative results. Many companies fail to develop a culture that inspires employees to work at their peak performance. If your team members don’t love their jobs, they are not going to do their best work, and your ability to scale will be hindered. To attract and retain top talent, startups must provide employees with premium work experiences. That means creating a company culture that excites, invigorates, and empowers team members to reach their full potential.