5 Steps to Build a Culture of Growth in Your Startup
This post was written for Pomello by Niraj Ranjan Rout. Niraj is the founder of Hiver, an app that turns Gmail into a powerful customer support and collaboration tool.If you are interested in guest blogging for us tell us more about your idea here.
“I used to believe that culture was ‘soft,’ and had little bearing on our bottom line. What I believe today is that our culture has everything to do with our bottom line, now and into the future.” – Vern Dosch, author, Wired Differently
One of the many key factors for a startup’s growth is its culture. Nurturing the culture of the company from early on is paramount. A strong, thriving, culture of growth depends a lot on the core values we set for the startup and the employees. Here are some ways to nurture a growth-oriented startup culture:
Document you startup’s principles and values
“We believe that it’s really important to come up with core values that you can commit to. And by commit, we mean that you’re willing to hire and fire based on them. If you’re willing to do that, then you’re well on your way to building a company culture that is in line with the brand you want to build.” – Tony Hsieh, CEO, Zappos
A startup can grow only if you can unify all the employees under common principles, goals and values. This is the first essential step to building a thriving culture. They must be in sync with your idea of a great startup and the best way to do this is by explicitly stating what your core values are and what your vision for the startup is.
The best way to communicate this message is by putting it into words. Document your values, create a manifesto if you have to and let everyone including yourself know what the startup should stand for. Here’s an interesting read on that note.
Here are some steps you can take to get your company values infused into your culture:
- Suppose an employee’s actions were out of sync with what the startup stands for, make sure to have a discussion with them, and tell them why it’s not acceptable.
- On a similar note, if an employee stands by a particular value, make sure to appreciate them publicly.
- Put your core values on display – use some quirky posters.
- Give the responsibility of propagating company values to the senior employees.
Startups usually have relatively small workforces, given that, the impact each and every employee has on the startup and it’s culture is significant. Picking the right people to work with you will keep your startup’s DNA intact.
First, you must write down a list of qualities that you think are important for an employee to have to fit well with your startup and while interviewing a candidate you must focus on these checkpoints.
For example, if innovation is one of the core elements of your startup’s culture, then look for someone who is eager to ask ‘Why do it like this, why not like that’ and is comfortable breaking stereotypes.
Companies like LinkedIn conduct a rigorous selection process so as to find the people whose attitude fits perfectly with theirs. Keep in mind that skill can be nurtured and taught, attitude cannot be.
Be incredibly and shockingly honest with your employees
A culture of authenticity and transparency is necessary to encourage growth. There are some startups which divulge the salary information of all the employees to everyone in the company and there also startups which organise board meetings in front of everyone. This is the kind of shocking honesty I am talking about.
At a startup called Buffer, the founder not only keeps the salary details open, but also divulged the salary decision formula. The great thing about this kind of authenticity is that the employees will completely trust their founders to have their best interests in mind and can shift their focus onto work.
No one feels wronged about anything, everything is fair and everything is out in the open. A transparent culture nurtures a ‘We’ concept rather than an ‘I’ concept in your employees.
Let your employees have a taste of victory first hand
At my startup Hiver, this is what we do to encourage our employees – When an employee comes up with a great idea, we make them the ‘CEO’ of the idea and give them all the rights to plan, execute, and monitor the project. All of us report to the person in charge, including the founders.
When I spoke to some people who leave MNCs to join startups, I realised that one of the major reasons for their job shifts was that it’s very hard to get important work and that there is no autonomy in work in these overpopulated companies. Hence, the best way to keep employees motivated and take initiative is by letting them be a part of the big game.
Here are some examples:
- Get them involved in client meetings.
- Take the time to explain the company strategy, and the vision to them.
- Constantly give them ownership of tasks and encourage healthy autonomy.
- Encourage an employee who wants to take up more challenging work by letting them.
Make your workplace happy and inspiring
Make your employees feel a tad excited to come to work everyday instead of having to drag their feet. For example, if you want your employees to feel creatively-inspired at work, fill the place up with vibrant colors, artistic designs etc.
Help your employees de-stress from time to time, by organizing fun and goofy activities, dinners, outings etc. With its small size, one big advantage startups have is that all the employees can really get to know each other and bond. Help them achieve this by organising extracurricular activities.
Most of us think that a growth-oriented culture is not about having fun and does extensive work all the time. Wrong! A stress-free and happy work environment makes employees genuinely root for the startup and feel motivated.
“There’s no magic formula for great company culture. The key is just to treat your staff how you would like to be treated.” – Richard Branson, Founder, Virgin Group