Startup culture and the shambles of its creation — On tips of how NOT to create one
As startup creators, tell me, how did you define your team’s culture?
You are ambitious, lucky to have enough resources and meet enough zealous people to form a team. So you started a small company with perks that you think will be a big hit in the future. Everyone thought so too. Until they don’t get along with you, with each others, with the new hires, and slowly decaying their passion in the company. What went wrong?
Everyone should know by now that company culture is “important”, it’s the crucial element to create a happy environment full of willing employees, to sustain everyone within the company in the vision that the startup creators once have. As critical as it sounds to be, many startups struggled to create successful and sustainable culture. Geir Sand Nilsen from EdTech Foundry, a businessman from Norway, who is well-versed in startup environment and has formed various startup companies, has something to say as hints and tips on how NOT to create a chaotic culture
Have your vision in written form
“Admittedly all I have done so far was coming from my head. My visions, my strategy, my aspirations … were all up there, and never gotten to my team members. A horrible mistake I’ve well-aware for years now” — said Geir on his very first mistakes.
You are probably thinking, “How would that possible? I am close with everyone in my team, there is no way they stray away like that dude’s team members!” But in reality, how can you be so sure that a group of highly motivated and distinguished personalities are ALL on the same page as you are? Maybe on the page of your goal as a successful company, but to be on the same page of working style? That is the pitfall most new CEOs are so arrogant that they overlooked. You need to have everyone’s mind are in total agreement, or awareness of the intended culture. A meeting of everyone mutually sitting down and getting to know the culture doesn’t take much time, yet it can create such crucial impact for later. Write it down, hang it on the walls so that everyone can be reminded of the pages they are on.
Don’t hire too well-fit to your “gang”
You have your values and your members set to go. But as the company expands and you frantically struggle to find new hires to fill the holes in talents and skill sets. What other standards would be your go-to checklist when interview potential team members? Their values, of course, you said. The new gal must be able to get along the values and culture that your team has worked so hard to create, and they need to have the same mindset to begin with too, save you the trouble to explain your culture all over again.
But according to Geir, that is another common pitfall most startup CEOs stumble upon. You may hire the people with the best fit with your team, but conformity will dull the growth of a fledgling culture. For EdTech Foundry, Geir has hired a diverse group of new interns, bringing a fresh air of various backgrounds and opinions to the team. The company has the opportunity to express their values to these new interns, confirming the values that Geir has wanted, and evolved to fit everyone too.
Pay close attention to team members, even the captain
You have set up a great team, have all your values and vision written down, and now all you have to concern about is profit and how to grow the company physically. But are you sure the culture you made will stay the same on paper and in the hearts of your teammates? Will they never stray from the path due to personal reasons or change in company’s plans?
Geir faced the same problem too. Once he set up the team and get them into gears, he thought that was it. All was well until team members started to have disputes and he couldn’t keep up with the daily routine of fixing things around the company. Eventually he gave up and let a guy who know his works to handle the team. The company was great again thanks to his routine checks on team members. Don’t be too complacent of your company culture. There will strays and opposing opinions, you need a strong and suitable leader who pay close attention to each team members, so they can solve through clear communications and evolving the company’s culture itself.
Remember to have your values of the startup culture ingrained into a piece of paper as a reminder for your team members, hire well-fit and diverse group of new workers that will help your culture grow, and tend your culture well by paying close to its growth and the opinions of team members. That is all Geir Nilsen have to say on the advice of not making his mistakes again for other startup CEOs out there.