Every company has a culture.
Some are intentional. Others are not: since nature abhors a vacuum, if you don't actively work to create the culture you want, a culture will be created for you - and instead of fueling your growth, an unintentional culture can kill your business.
That's definitely true for my company, FreeLogoServices.com (where I'm founder and CEO). We would have been out of business long ago if we had not built an enduring culture.
Here are a few aspects of our company culture that have made a huge difference in our growth:
Love your customers... because without them you don't exist.
That's not just true in customer-facing functions like customer service.
Sure, our customer service team goes above and beyond to handle issues when they arise. We respond within a few hours of receiving emails or queries. We don't stop until we've solved their problems or helped them overcome a branding challenge. (And they love us for it.)
But that attitude extends to every function of our business - and it starts at the top. I often call customers to ask about their experience with us and to help them in any way I can.
Putting the customer first can't be someone else's job, or the role of a specific department - it must be your job, because when it is, everyone in your organization will embrace that attitude as well.
And if that's not reason enough to walk the talk according to John L. Daly, "Conventional business wisdom contends that it costs 10 times as much to obtain a new customer as it does to retain an existing customer."
Bottom line: if yours is a bootstrapped company without the luxury of VC money, revenue is all-important - and revenue comes from customers.
"Love your customers... even though it's sometimes hard. Without them, you don't exist."
Build a learning based environment based on metrics.
We're a startup. We need to learn and adapt or we die.
So we've created an environment that not only encourages our employees to try new things, but to bring metrics and data that proves whether those things actually work - or how they should be adapted so they do work.
The key, of course, is to be systematic in our approach. We focus on validated learning, a lean startup concept coined by Steve Blank and made popular by Eric Ries.
If you're unfamiliar with the premise, validated learning is a process where you try an idea, measure the results to validate the effect... and then keep on rinsing and repeating, building on what you learn every step along the way.
This aspect of our culture creates a flywheel for growth: We constantly test and validate our ideas for how to grow our business.
For example, a few years ago we implemented a machine learning-based, predictive technology that suggests creative logo designs to customers. We tested it against a product that did not offer the same capability and saw a 15 percent increase in sales.
No matter what you sell, build a culture where testing, experimenting, and validating allows your organization to constantly learn and therefore drive measurable improvement. Sure, as the founder you have lots of ideas... but your employees have a lot more - and often better - ideas.
Focus more on execution than strategy.
No startup can afford to spend hours talking about ideas and strategy. As a founder, thinking about strategy should take up no more than five percent of your time.
If you're not trying to close that next customer, implement that new marketing plan, build an amazing product... if you're not focused on the nuts and bolts of your business you're no closer to validating your products and services - and you're no closer to generating revenue.
As a startup, trying to build a "perfect" solution is often a waste of time because you may not even know what your customers consider "perfect" to be. Build a solution, let your customers try it, and use data and feedback to create the product they want.
This instills a company culture of action, of innovation... and of GSD: Getting Shit Done.
While culture is important to every organization, in a startup culture it is absolutely critical to survival and growth. As Brian Chesky, the CEO of Airbnb, once said, "Culture is a shared way of doing something with passion."
Building an environment based on loving our customers, relentless execution, and constant learning are a just a few of the key components of our culture.
What have you done to build an outstanding culture?