How Startup CEOs Can Develop a Company Culture

3 min read
Feb 24, 2017


Building a business from scratch takes a lot of work — there’s no doubt about that.

But while many founders focus on getting their product to market as quickly as possible, sometimes this comes at the expense of other critical facets of their companies which could come back to haunt them in the future.

For example, in an effort to build their businesses fast, some founders may not put enough time and energy into creating a company culture. This can be quite dangerous, as company culture is strongly correlated with employee happiness — a fact we uncovered in our 2017 Employee Engagement Report.

When employees like the cultures they work in, they are likely to be more productive and stay with the company longer. On the flip side, when cultures are toxic or nonexistent, the most talented workers will almost certainly be thinking about their next job opportunity shortly after they join the team.

The last thing any founder wants is to build a company that disintegrates quickly due to a toxic culture. But how exactly do you go about developing an attractive company culture? A number of CEOs and founders weighed in on this topic in a recent Quora thread. Here’s what they had to say:

  • Create meaning: What problems is your startup trying to solve? What value do you want to deliver to your customers? What traits are most important to your company? If your company were a person, what adjectives would you want others to use to describe it? Answer these questions to create a sense of purpose and meaning for your company. Build on top of that.
  • Figure out how you’re different: Culture is what makes your company different from every other company. If you’re a SaaS company that requires all employees to wear sandals to the office, that’s part of your culture because no one else does that. If you’re a SaaS company that doesn’t have a dress code, that’s not part of your culture because it’s part of everyone else’s too.
  • Build rituals to reinforce your culture: You can’t expect your culture to flourish if you only pay it lip service. Create rituals that are inspired by your culture. For example, if part of your culture is promoting employees from within, don’t hire an expert from outside for a managerial role (unless you have no other options). If building a strong team is important for your culture, organize team-building activities on a regular basis. And so on.
  • Lead by example: If you want the rest of the team to take your culture to heart and emulate it, you need to lead by example. If part of your culture is showing up precisely on time, you can’t expect your team to do that when you routinely stroll into the office a few hours after everyone else.
  • Hire for culture fit: It can be difficult — but not impossible — to keep your culture intact when you’re growing quickly. The easiest way to make sure that your culture remains strong is by hiring for culture fit. Ask candidates specific questions to determine whether they are committed to your values and enjoy your quirks.

Your work doesn’t stop there. You’ll want to revisit your culture from time to time to make sure you’re still living your values. Of course, cultures can change over time too. Don’t be afraid to adjust your culture to reflect your current situation as you continue to grow.

A great culture brings everyone together on the same page. All energy is focused in the same direction, making it that much easier to accomplish what you set out to accomplish. Build a strong culture into your organization from the ground up, to increase the chances you’ll achieve your goals. Good luck!




2017 Employee Engagement Report

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