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If You're Looking For Company Culture, You're Doing It Wrong
 

Indiegogo co-founder Danae Ringelmann explains the right--and wrong--way to define your company's unique culture.

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Many founders tend to think of company culture as intangible or emotional--the "soft" side of business. But getting your culture in order is hard, says Indiegogo co-founder Danae Ringelmann. 

Ringelmann presented to a group of a few hundred entrepreneurs at the Women 2.0 conference in San Francisco last week. In her talk, she tried pinpoint exactly where many go wrong when trying to establish a company-wide identity. Often, what happens is that founders go searching too far afield for their company's defining set of goals, she concluded.  

"You don't have to go outside and find your values out there in the world," Ringelmann said. "The benefit of being an entrepreneur is that the values, the beliefs, and behaviors that your company needs to succeed are the ones that you hold yourself. Because you started this company for a reason. You're trying to solve a problem, and so your goals are your company's goals--it's one in the same."

Indiegogo, which launched in 2008, employs 85 people in San Francisco, Los Angeles, and New York, reported The Wrap. The company is fresh off a Series B round of financing and has now raised a total of $56.5 million, according to CrunchBase

It wasn't until 2011, when the company raised its first round of capital, that Ringelmann thought seriously about defining her own company's culture. Up until that point the three to four employees that were there shared an existing, yet undefined, set of goals. It was time to elucidate Indiegogo's defining characteristics so that Ringelmann could figure out who to hire as the company expanded.

"You just need to be incredibly intentional about it. You have first recognize what are the values, beliefs, and behaviors that are actually needed for your company to succeed, and then it's a matter of going and finding those people that exhibit those in a natural way," Ringelmann said. 

So when Indiegogo was a still company of less than five, she and her coworkers sat down and wrote, or drew, the answers to two questions: What do we value, and why are we here? 

Ringelmann found that everyone's answers to these questions were remarkably similar. They hadn't all answered the same way verbatim, but their overall values boiled down to a few simple main ideas--the ones they had each shared all along. "So really it's not a finding exercise," Ringelmann said. "It's an uncovering, discovery exercise." 

IMAGE: Getty Images
Last updated: Feb 18, 2014

LAURA MONTINI is a reporter at Inc. She previously covered health care technology for Health 2.0 News and has served as an associate editor at The Health Care Blog. She lives in San Francisco.
@lmmontini




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