As a startup, raising capital and pitching your investors can become your sole focus as it's the most important part of getting your company off the ground. But now that your fundraising is complete and you've begun hiring kick-ass people to join your team, it's time to think about the culture you'd like to instil within the business. Building a core company culture is not always top of mind as you're getting your business up and running, but it's going to be much more difficult to create a culture down the line when the business has already been established.
The idea of "startup culture" has been misrepresented by Silicon Valley companies like Google and Facebook offering nap rooms, slides, and beers on tap in their offices. However, there is a common misconception that the best company cultures are centered around the best perks. This couldn't be further from the truth. The core of a healthy culture is based on relationships and building longstanding values and goals to create a strong sense of trust within within the company among employees and their leaders.
Creating a company culture initially as a startup doesn't seem like it would be that difficult. You're right, it's not. Anyone can create lofty goals and offer mindless perks. But creating a culture that will grow with the company as it grows is where things can get a little tricky. As your company grows and develops, it's easy to lose sight of those core company goals and values you once put into place as an itty bitty startup. Ping pong and cold brew on tap aside, here are three steps to creating a company culture that will withstand company growth and business pivots.
Clear and Realistic Values
The first step in creating a core culture is to make sure you have defined values. Having clear company values means that you're openly expressing to the entire company what is important to you in running the business and interacting with one another. A successful culture means that everyone within the organization is speaking the same language and is on the same page about what the company's values are.
These values should be known by everyone in the organization from the CEO to the intern. At Techstars, David Cohen and myself explain our values to every single new hire during orientation. Make the values tangible to everyone and write them down. This will hold the company as a whole accountable for knowing and understanding the key values. This will help your culture withstand any company growth.
Lead by Example
Culture is essentially shaped by the way the company leaders act and are involved. As a leader, it's crucial to eat, sleep and breath your company values, as you are their strongest advocate. If the leadership doesn't embody the core values, why would the rest of the team? It's important to lead by example and encourage full transparency. This will create a level of trust within the company that will not go unnoticed.
If your employees don't respect or trust you, your company culture has been depleted. Being fully transparent in times when the company is having financial issues, or any other difficult situation, it will help preserve the company culture that you had put in place to begin with. We have found that by disclosing the Techstars financials with the entire team each quarter helps the team as a whole feel like they aren't being kept in the dark.
Create Culture that Supports Growth
Being a startup it's extremely important to recognize that your culture needs to be able to grow with your business as it expands and evolves. The values you create from the beginning should continue to be relevant as your company grows. In the early stages, you should be thinking long term when creating those goals. The company culture you create needs to be able to support the growth your company will experience and the amount of new employees you will end up hiring. Staying true to your values even as company evolves is a crucial part of staying consistent.