Being an entrepreneur means never having to be corporate. But growing companies can be susceptible to changes in their environment. How do you retain a startup culture as you continue to grow? We asked members of the Entrepreneurs' Organization to share their experiences and insights regarding this topic.

Ensure the team comes first. 

"We celebrate our wins with champagne and cheeses, huddle up every Monday morning to discuss the previous week's work, and go on annual team-building retreats, among other things. A big part of sustaining our culture is hiring people on the basis of our core values, and having leaders who emulate these values and beliefs--namely, have fun and enjoy the work. That's where it all starts."

Mark Shipley, EO Albany

President and chief strategic officer, Smith & Jones

Start the day with action.

"Our firm has an action-packed learning, recognition, and issue-driven 25-minute meeting every morning. We start the morning with a music video of one team member's choice, and usually end it with a funny saying or video. We have found this meeting to be a big culture builder, because everyone starts the day off on the right foot and gets to check in with the team. We usually have about 30 people in attendance."

Andrew Propst, EO Idaho

Fuel competition.

"We keep it fun and competitive. To maintain a healthy level of competition, we've set up regular challenges among the departments. For example, we have Feast Fridays, on which we eat together as a company and pitch creative television-show ideas. Winners are rewarded and losers clean the office. We also fuel a competitive environment. It allows us to keep the startup culture alive in a rapidly growing company."

Steve Gatena, EO Los Angeles

Constantly communicate, no matter the distance.

"We have a global team working virtually around the clock, and we pride ourselves on our listening and understanding skills. Through our quarterly Skype sessions in which our international team comes together to listen to ideas and brainstorm for the future, all employees are encouraged to share their ideas for how the company and community can develop. We listen, we understand, and we develop to build relationships with our customers and our team members."

Jimmy Chiang, EO Orange County

Make fun a priority.

"Last year, we created a Director of Employee Happiness position. The director is responsible for planning companywide events, training programs, and more. For example, we created DSi University to help employees understand all aspects of the business and not just their day-to-day jobs. We also held a book club, in which we all read the same business book in groups. These activities keep employees engaged in the business and its overall success, which is one of the benefits of a startup culture."

Tom Turner, EO Nashville

President, DSi

Published on: Apr 11, 2014