Put simply, the better the culture at your company, the better people perform. Poor work environments are shown to produce poor results, this is especially true in the millennial startup era we’re in. So how do you go about developing and maintaining a great and unique company culture that will attract, nurture and retain the brilliant people you need to build your business?
Establish your company culture
Before you can maintain your culture, you need to build it. It’s often an area startups don’t codify and don’t work at, generally speaking, as scaling happens this leads to some bad situations including hiring bad employees, losing good employees and generally making everyone miserable and unproductive.
So first things first, sit down and use your company’s mission, your values, and the key teams value to codify a book on your company culture, outline what you are, what you’re aiming for and what your team and company embody. I highly recommend taking a read of Netflix’s culture slide share before you do this, they set the benchmark as one of the most successful company cultures to ever be developed.
Make sure everyone is on the same page
No CEO, HR director or senior team member alone can build or maintain a great culture within a growing business, as they say, it takes a village to raise a family, the same is true for teams.
You need to make sure that all key team members understand, embody and purvey your culture to themselves and their team members. A good practice is to make company culture adoption and maintenance a part of team member appraisals, it creates accountability around the area and allows you to see any issues quickly.
Make sure your recruitment process is in line with your culture
Have you ever heard the expression, don’t let a fox in the hen-house? We’re going to slight adapt that here, but the same general rule applies. You need to hire just as much on talent as you do on if this potential employee will fit within your company culture and will be able to push it forward. At the end of the day, it comes down to values, shared values will create success in many ways. If a new team member no matter how talented doesn’t share your company culture or values, it will cause severe disruption and productivity problems for them and your team.
In the early days of a startup, the influence one person can have on the overall culture of a company is much bigger than they can have on a company that already consists of hundreds of people. That is why especially in the beginning you not only have to find people that have the right skill but also have a personality that fits your team.
Make culture an ongoing priority
Revenue, financial controls, and marketing strategy are all valid areas to manage and lead but so is company culture. It is the engine behind everything you do, for your business to scale, be successful and grow at the pace it should, culture needs to be a strategic objective to build and maintain. If you build a house on sand, don’t expect it to be there for very long!
Once you’ve established a great culture your next mission should be to always preserve, Peter Thiel puts this core idea in more simple terms “don’t fuck up the culture”, After reading a blog post by Brian Chesky about the culture at AirBnB, I understood what Peter Van Sabben was talking about. The reason for this was Peter Thiel, who had just invested $150m in the company and his single most important piece of advice was, “don’t fuck up the culture”. Brian Chesky sums up the importance of culture as follows: “Culture is the thing that will endure for 100 years, if you break the culture, you break the machine that creates your products”.
Start creating a great company culture
Now you understand the importance of culture in your startup it’s important to actually get started. Good examples to take a look at are these slides from Netflix and this article about Google for some inspiration. Furthermore, Ricardo Semler wrote an awesome book about company culture, and on Mashable you can find a great step-by-step plan. But it’s important to keep in mind that culture is just like your ideas and vision, it is unique, and it will take time and effort to get it right.
Remeber creating a great company culture is not just about big changes its also just as much about the small things from your business ethics and dealing with customers to how team members interact, culture trickles into every crevice of your business. Making team members feel valued and teaching them the core values of your company can help promote a sense of community in your business and promote higher esteem and productivity.