Minimum Viable Culture
When should a startup start to write down its culture and values?
As a startup founder, I deeply believe two things:
- Company culture starts with your first hire and is fundamental to long-term success.
- Small, early-stage startups don’t need a lot of process, documentation, or formality.
When my co-founder Ben and I were deciding whether to work together, we exchanged notes on the values and behaviors that mattered to us. But it felt too early for an official company values statement.
Instead, I wrote a brief set of “ground rules” that we give to new hires on their first day. They’re simple enough to read in a minute, but practical enough to apply to your daily choices and actions:
Fieldbook: Ground Rules
- Always speak the truth—candidly and if necessary, bluntly—and always be ready to hear the truth from others.
- Think for yourself. No one’s opinion is gospel. “Jason said” is not a justification for anything.
- Be honest, fair, and respectful with others, at all times — inside and outside the company.
- Act like an owner. You are never to say: “That’s not my job.” Your job at all times is to do whatever, in your judgment, is in the best interests of the company.
- Think and act long-range. We are not “built to flip.” We are building long-term, sustainable, durable value.
- Take pride in your work. If at any point you feel that something is preventing you from doing your best work, talk to Jason right away.