Your company’s culture impacts revenues, profitability, customers, and operations.
A positive culture serves to benefit everything you do.
This article will look at the following aspects of company culture:
A strong culture forms when a company defines and communicates its vision and values. Vision creates a destination and values create guardrails to reaching that destination.
When the culture is healthy, people rely on vision and values to face opportunities and challenges. When weighing options, the team can ask, “Does this option move us closer to our vision and does this option align with our values?” With that framework, your list of options may be more easily narrowed and prioritized. When tough decisions need to be made, the culture encourages resilience during stress.
“Corporate culture is the only sustainable competitive advantage
completely within the control of the entrepreneur.
Develop a strong culture first and foremost.”
– David Cummings
You may be tempted to build a culture based on what you think employees, investors, and others want to hear. Don’t do this. Instead, be authentic. For instance, if you want people to work long hours, don’t promote an amazing work-life balance. Talk about a meaningful vision, the effort required to achieve it, and the advantages of working at your company.
“Culture eats strategy for breakfast.”
– Peter Drucker
Some founders conflate a strong culture with having fun. There is no correlation between having fun and growing a business. If the startup fails, no one will have fun. Building a culture is based on defining the ways of working together and the principles that will guide crucial decisions throughout the company’s existence.
Start instilling culture right away. If things go well with your startup, the ride will get faster and bumpier.
Reflect on your vision, mission, and values early in the inception phase. These may evolve but should not fundamentally change. Look at yourself as an example: You may have changed features, style, and interests over time, but many of your characteristics and traits have remained the same.
Build and reinforce a culture that complements your business plan guided by these steps:
Apply It Constantly. Convert your values into your hiring processes, evaluations, promotions, client acquisition, and branding approach. Always revisit culture during big decisions and crises.
Explain It Clearly. Your contributors will work hard to implement your vision, so determine how they will be recognized. Are you relying on financial incentives, a strong social community, or a meaningful impact? How will others find meaning in supporting your growth?
Define It Unwaveringly. Identify which traits define your company and are non-negotiable. Some may include integrity, compassion, and inclusion. Over time, you may have to leave stakeholders lacking these traits.
Once in place, culture needs nurturing. Here’s how:
Engage Employees. Strengthen the culture through activities. For instance, if you want to encourage learning, you may not be able to afford private coaches, but you can give employees access to online courses, networking groups, and other learning opportunities.
Act Consistently. No matter how big the company becomes or how often you pivot the business model, ensure your actions, company policies, and all messaging are aligned with your culture.
Review Regularly. All aspects of the startup need to evolve. A team of ten people will have needs different than a company with a thousand employees. At least annually, determine if your culture is adhering to the original description. Team meetings and surveys are additional ways to check.
Apply Deeply. When faced with tough decisions, revisit the culture. A strong culture guides major leadership decisions and employees’ everyday choices.
You need to find your own path in building your business; however, if I were your COO, I would encourage you to value autonomy and accountability in others.
Autonomy drives human motivation, performance, and fulfillment by combining flexibility with responsibility and, in many ways, describes entrepreneurism. Accountability shows the results.
Some authoritarian founders want to micromanage how things get done, while some overgenerous founders don’t want to measure or enforce results. I recommend balancing employees’ independence with high expectations. Verify quality work while encouraging career development.
Pro Tip: When you prioritize autonomy with accountability, you show respect while demanding progress. Most startup people are motivated, guardrails keep them on course.
Key Takeaway: Companies that instill a strong culture are more resilient. You want to establish and reinforce a culture encouraging cooperation, accountability, and productivity.
Based on over twenty years of experience combined with three years of research, Scale: Reach Your Peak is a modular handbook with over 130 independent topics across 500 pages including leadership, growth, sales, marketing, operations, finance, and teams. Each topic takes five minutes to gain invaluable insights, best practices, practical options, and realistic exercises.