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Early company culture on the cheap?

I find most talk about company culture, is just that -talk. And at the startup stage you're mostly just trying to get things done. What are cheap, small things you can do to establish culture early - beyond posters and team lunch?


34 Replies

Brent Wittke
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Brent Wittke Entrepreneur
CEO, Co-founder at Resale Therapy
You must first define, for yourself, what a 'culture' is. Here is a video I often use to help leaders understand what a culture is:
https://youtu.be/0344qRfAOtA

A culture is not slogans, posters, or the like. Culture is a representation of how all things relate to one another within organization.

Think about it - You can have an amazing culture within an organization that is entirely outsourced. How, can that possibly happen without them seeing those motivational 'Hang in there' kitten posters, or those compulsory free lunches with the boss.

Lead with why you are doing what you are doing, then always ensure what you do is consistent with why you are doing it. Because, the culture that develops is a result of the actions that are taken, not the words that are spoken.

Good luck, - Brent
Justin Westcott
0
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Justin Westcott Advisor
Director & Founder at Westcott Coaching
Bring in someone early on to help determine what culture you want to set in place and strategically align everything to meet that. It may not be as cheap as you would like but it will be invaluable. In my experience many leader's establish missions and values because they "have to" but don't set up the rest of the organization to experience this DNA.
Charlie Macchia
1
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Charlie Macchia Advisor
Principal, BrainOVision - iPhone Development & A/V Consulting & Production
Know what kind of company you are - are you about innovation - or are you about doing the same old thing, but cheaper?

If the former - the most important thing you can do is preserve your core staff from those who think the only way to make money is the latter.
Haim Toeg
1
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Haim Toeg Entrepreneur
Customer Success, Services and Support Executive - Available For New Opportunities
Like Brent said - culture starts with how you conduct yourself and, by extension, how you expect everybody else conduct themselves. You can put posters with slogans and aspirational quotes in every office, lunch area and bathroom, but if you don't demonstrate your commitment with everything you do all you have are dead words on a wall. You can have as many lunches as you please, but if your employees don't feel free to talk since the last person who did that is now looking for a job then what have you accomplished?
Isaiah McPeak
0
0
Isaiah McPeak Advisor
Entrepreneur and Debate Coach
- create moments to share war stories and fails. Reaction to failure defines culture.
- ask this question regularly: "What is the dumbest thing you've been assigned to work on?" Discuss... 75% of the time it is dumb, 25% of the time you need to align better
- cheap lynda.com or udemy courses, plus books, and "it's ok to work on these in the office, publicly" environment, so nobody feels bad taking 45 minutes to read a business or design book
- spend $25 on the cheap nerf guns and darts... great thing we did at 9Lenses
- bring in interns and give them real work... mentoring fosters a culture

Principle: culture does evolve organically, you have to give it room to. I disagree with people about needing to get a consultant or "defining" your culture. You have to live it and build trust in it, not articulate it ahead of time. Don't say you're awesome... be awesome.
Paul McCarthy
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Paul McCarthy Entrepreneur
Chief Strategy Officer & Co Founder of Ten Speed
The startup I am a partner in has tackled this issue by being transparent and clear about the values we each hold as individuals. We have then determined the most important values to us as a startup and aspire to act in congruence with those values. It's not always easy, though we try and hold ourselves accountable and regularly review that these values still align with where we want to take the company...because of this approach, our culture has evolved and we aspire to behave in a way where we practice what we preach...
Mark Wald
1
0
Mark Wald Advisor
Managing Director at Supporting Strategies - Santa Monica
So simple: Lead by example. Make culture a priority in your recruiting process and in your daily interactions with your team. You are the head of your startup household.
Paul Dowling
1
0
Paul Dowling Advisor
Founder at Dreamstake
I would say at early stage, don't even play lip service to it. Best just to set the expectation that it is all hard work until some major funding comes in. Best, Paul
Patrick T. Malone
1
0
Interim President & CEO at Blairsville Union County Chamber of Commerce
Culture is all talk at organizations that rely on posters and a team lunch and think it can be established with something small and cheap.
David DeMember
3
0
David DeMember Advisor
Co-Founder at Toi
It starts at the top. Leaders set the culture of a company. I entered the startup world pretty early (18) and I haven't had a "job" my entire career. While me and my first partner were the classic CEO/COOs of a 2 man startup, that was the last time I focused on titles. I've always strived to create an environment where titles don't matter, everyone is important and every job is one that I would want myself. I also express a desire for people to grow and become more valuable. I've had very low employee churn rates over the years.

I believe every founding team should have at least 1 founder who is fairly charismatic and can help foster the culture in the company that you're looking for.

Most studies (google some on your own) say that whether its business (leading), education (teaching), sports (coaching) or parenting (all of the preceding), positive discipline, continual learning and an atmosphere of respect will achieve more successful and sustainable results.
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