Startup Company Culture

All companies have their own organizational culture. Organizational attributes – for example, how long the company has been in business and how many employees work there – do grow and evolve as a company matures,  but even startups with fewer than five employees quickly develop their own distinct culture. Of course, when running a startup there is an endless number of business responsibilities that require immediate and prolonged attention.

Unfortunately, establishing a good corporate culture tends to fall very low on most priority lists. Without a doubt, this oversight is detrimental to any business, regardless of size, scale, or tenure. It’s far better to address culture proactively from the outset than to attempt to create it after the fact. This blog will examine how to build a strong culture within a startup and the extent to which this proactivity benefits the startup and its stakeholders.

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Why Is It Important to Have Strong Culture in a Startup?

Every startup has one distinct advantage when it comes to establishing a company culture or modifying one already in existence:  the size of its workforce. Most startups boast a smaller workforce, making the flow of ideas and communication more feasible than in either medium or large enterprises. In short, fewer employees means that there are fewer people to be galvanized in the adoption of the company mindset and mission and vision statements you want to implement over the long term.

Because a startup is much more agile and adaptable to change than a larger organization, it is the perfect incubator for creative thinking and the transfer of ideas. In fact, “now” will always be the best time to invest thought and effort into creating a sustainable and open company culture. In the long run, it may pay dividends, literally and figuratively.

How Does Culture Impact Startup Growth?

By allowing bad habits or negative principles to manifest within any company, the environment can quickly turn apathetic, hostile, or in extreme cases, toxic. As a consequence, the employee turnover rate will rise sharply, as teams begin to fragment and lose their collective sense of purpose. Formerly dependable employees will seek out opportunities with companies that promote a corporate culture more suited to their lifestyle. The cost of employee turnover isn’t just financial. It also leads to process inefficiencies, bottlenecks, delays, and lapses in the transfer of key company and procedural knowledge. All of these will affect your startup growth considerably, setting you back months, even years.

On the other hand, clearly defining the values and culture that should govern your business and advocating them among employees at every level in the company culture can attract higher-quality talent and a higher output of quality work. A clearly defined positive culture in the workplace immediately makes your startup appear more appealing to workers. At the same time, positive values help to motivate your employees and empower them to excel in their roles. As a result of feeling both recognized and rewarded, happy employees will put forth a stronger effort, helping your startup grow incrementally and cementing their loyalty over the long term.

Strong Company Culture

1. Clearly Define Your Values

If you want to create a strong work culture within your startup, you first need to define the values that govern your workplace and, in a larger sense, the company as a whole. Take your time with this one – it’s the first and most important step on the road to stronger, value-based company culture. Before getting too far afield, it’s a good idea to get input from your existing stakeholders, including employees, partners, and any other individual with a stake in the company’s growth and success. The list of values that govern your startup may differ from business to business, but a few values are a keystone to any enterprise such as:

  • Transparency
  • Accountability
  • Integrity

You could even make “having fun” a core value of your startup. After all, no profit, no fun! In the end, the idea is to clearly define and condense into simple, easy-to-understand words and taglines that clearly delineate how you want to the company and its associates to be perceived, through words and subsequent actions. Over time, as your startup grows, expands, and adds more employees, you may modify existing values or add new ones.

2. Have a Rewards System

Of course, any value system you come up with is comprised of meaningful words. But unless you find a way to implement the value system in real-time every day in the workplace, the words and the significance behind them will quickly become stagnant and meaningless.

Traditionally, there are two ways to make people accept new values. First, you can put a punishment system in place and take disciplinary action against employees that fail to uphold your corporate values. This, however, usually contributes to a negative corporate culture. A more advisable option is to establish a rewards system that recognizes accountable employees that make a strong effort to implement the company values, enabling them to continue to grow into the culture and to encourage others to do the same. Whether or not you choose to go with monetary rewards is up to you. When other employees see members of your startup getting rewarded for upholding company values, they will want to do the same.

3. Attract the Right Talent

The individual members of your workforce, i.e. your employees, are the biggest stakeholders in your startup’s company culture. When you place emphasis on creating and nurturing a strong culture, you will inevitably attract better talent. The hiring process is a great opportunity to build culture and identify shared values in your new employees from the outset, shaping them into a closer approximation of the larger company ideals.

Remember: the right talent is a significant advantage to your startup over your competition. With careful consideration and the help of some versatile niche-specialist staffing partners, you can attract and build a workforce around your startup’s culture. As time goes on, these employees will become advocates of the values and culture inside the organization.

4. Adopt Clear, Two-Way Communication

When you’re an employer, you have certain responsibilities to the people under your employ. Perhaps the most important is an open and honest two-way communication between yourself and your associates. In a startup, it’s critical to know how your employees feel, and the state of their morale. Employee feedback is very valuable information that can help you shape and improve your company culture, based on the insights your employees offer.

As a matter of fact, most businesses have clear and defined channels for employees to share and receive feedback. If you’ve outsourced your hiring function to a staffing agency, then you should be reaching out to them as well. Your accountant may not have the courage to tell you, the boss, about flaws in company culture, but you can be sure he or she will offer feedback to the finance staffing solutions firm that placed them at your startup. You should gather feedback any way you can, gaining insights and opinions from your employees and using them to improve on what you already have in place. A strong corporate culture isn’t static, so be prepared to evolve as time goes on.

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