Startup Culture: Why it Matters

Startup Culture: Why it Matters

In our “Startup DNA” series we have previously discussed what separates startups from traditional businesses and why the vision, voice and buy-in are absolutely critical for success.

In this installment we will be discussing why culture is an especially important factor when evaluating the present or future success of your company.

Defining Who You Are

Millennials are not only looking for careers, they are also looking for both inspiration (through mentorship) and challenges. Incorporating these ideals into your corporate culture can be tricky. It starts with hiring practices based on skill set and cultural fit.

However, in order to do this you must first define your culture. Starting with the founder/s, it is the company vision and how it aligns with a particular set of values. These values will help shape and define your culture, allowing you to recruit employees who meet these values. Define these values, and keep track of your values over the years. Often times, startups begin for one reason, and end up down a different path. Listen to your first group of hires and allow them to help mold your corporate culture.

Communication (Saying it Out Loud)

In past blogs we’ve detailed the importance of communicating the vision of the company from the top-down. From an evolutionary standpoint, the ability to clearly articulate and outline your cultural values is the next step after you communicate your company vision.

The vision and goals of an organization must be communicated consistently throughout the tenure of an employee.

There are many ways to communicating the company cultures and values, including adding these to your website, business cards, social media, and consistent training throughout an employee’s career. Explain why the corporate values matter, why the startup operates as it does, and an employee’s overall purpose and goal.

The Culture Shift

Many envision startups as a casual work environment, with an open office atmosphere, Foosball and Ping-Pong tables, and unlimited soda or beer from the refrigerator. This is just not the case, as many startups operated by Generation X and Y are changing the traditional hierarchical structure found in many large organizations. The younger generations have changed the style of communication between management and employee forever. Utilizing small teams with efficient, technology-driven communication, ideas and data points become a continuous flow of information exchanges among informed individuals.

Startups utilize these lean management techniques primarily because the culture has already allowed for a greater freedom of expression of ideas and concerns, helping employees of startups work together towards a common goal.

Typically, when an employee wishes to air a concern, share a new idea, etc. he or she speaks to a manager, who then speaks to another manager, who then speaks to the department head-so on and so forth, until a decision is eventually made. If you are interested in learning more about this type of culture, watch the “Triumph of the Nerds” and “Networking the Nerds” documentaries by Robert Cringely. Cringely briefly examines the bureaucracy around IBM’s decision-making abilities. There was at one point so much bureaucracy around IBM to the point where it was nearly impossible to implement change. With larger companies (like an IBM at one point), lean management techniques are more difficult to implement. However, through the utilization of smaller teams, open communication and delegating more responsibility to the average employee, you can improve efficiency and effectiveness within your department.

Correctly aligning your company vision with your culture will help your business maintain its identity and will ultimately lead to happier employees.

Our next blog installment on this series will detail the importance of the Board of Directors as an advisory body and the role of the Founder/s in maintaining the long-term success of the company. Doug Conant, former CEO of Campbell Soup, put it best “To win in the marketplace, you must first win in the workplace.”

Co-Authored: Mike Brown & Ben Dickshinski

What Startups Do Differently

What Startups Do Differently

Welcome to part-two of our “Startup DNA” series where we discuss the key components every startup needs to be successful. If nothing else, you will walk away from these blogs with a deeper understanding of the startup environment, cultural differences and why each piece of the startup puzzle is necessary for any small business.

In this installment, we will outline the key factors of communication and leadership frequently separating successful startups from their competition.

The Vision

In any organization, it is imperative the Founder/s have a clear and concise vision for the company. This means a comprehensive growth plan including current employees and departments. In order for the company vision to be realized and the leadership’s credibility to grow, the vision must be realistic, attainable, and each employee must understand how their work helps achieving common organizational goals. This not only builds the credibility of the leadership, but also helps develop a lasting company vision and enabling success across the organization.

The Voice

Oftentimes the vision is not linear and thus it is necessary to review current and past steps and reassess company goals and objectives. Successful startups utilize various communication methods to give employees up-to-date information without the time wasting and red-tape that can impede progress.

You may not be the Founder or VP of Marketing; however you do have a voice in the say and direction of the company you work for. Frequently, successful startups will utilize town-hall style meetings between management and employees in order to address specific issues and even recognize some recent successes.

Short standing meetings and 1-on-1 employee-manager meetings are also popular communication methods in successful startups because they emphasize personal growth and open-door policy among employees. If you’re a Founder, using these communication techniques with a personalized approach will empower your staff and lead them to what is known as “The Buy In.”

The Buy In

Without trusted leadership and a solid vision in which to grow, startups will undoubtedly flounder. However, with these two elements in place it is possible to achieve what notable leadership author John C. Maxwell identifies as “The Law of The Buy In.” Maxwell writes that people (employees) follow “worthy leaders who promote worthwhile causes.” That is why the initial leadership foundation is so important. Without the foundation of trust in the leadership, the vision can never truly be realized. Maxwell also writes that “a leader must get his/her people to buy into them (as a leader) before the vision has any chance of becoming reality.”

Communication is the foundation of trust, and without the initial trust in leadership, the vision can never really come to fruition.

Our next installment will detail the importance of “The Startup Culture” and how the 21st-century workplace has seen such a significant change when compared with preceding decades.

Co-Authored by Ben Dickshinksi & Michael Brown