Creating a positive environment that ensures your team is happy to show up to work every day is arguably as important as developing your core product offering. As Richard Branson famously said, “if you take care of your employees, they will take care of your customers”. But it’s easy to let day to day busyness take over and neglect ‘fluffier’ topics (like nurturing company culture) when more important things (like running a business) demand priority.
But someday all companies stop being startups, and by this point a culture will be well and truly ingrained. Ignore it at your peril, for without any influence it will be defined for you, and you might not like the beast that’s unintentionally created. Here are five simple things that organisations with positive company cultures get right; why not try them within your own startup?
1. Hire right
In the early stages of startup life, it’s easy to be blinded by stellar CVs and impressive experience. But if candidates aren’t the right fit personality wise, don’t be fooled into thinking that hiring them is going to make life any easier. Look for people who are passionate and believe in what you’re trying to achieve; these are the people who will turn into ‘culture multipliers’ and help grow your business in the right direction. They might not have the exact skill set you’re looking for, but they will have the right attitude, tons of potential, and will inspire the whole team.
2. Be social
A team that plays together, stays together. Set aside some time to get together regularly, so that everyone in your company can socialise over non-work related activities. While formal offsites and team-building activities are important, it’s often the informal events like ad-hoc team lunches, post-work drinks, cake on a Friday, or Monday morning coffee runs that break down barriers and strengthen team morale. Get the whole team involved and leave work chat in the office.
3. Provide an awesome workplace
Choosing the right work environment can have a big impact on your company culture, so it’s not a decision to take lightly. Coworking spaces, with their mix of quiet, collaborative and social areas, provide an ideal solution for startups trying to break away from the rigidity of office life.
Anjali Datwani, co-founder of Urban Journey, found that her team’s move to The Working Capitol not only enabled them to build business connections, but also helped strengthen their company culture. As she recounts, “we arrived as a team of three but quickly got talking to other like-minded members. The sense of community and collaboration made it feel as though we were part of something bigger and unquestionably helped us get through the ‘struggling startup’ phase”. Her team also learnt how to become really creative in terms of making unlikely business opportunities work, and “this sense of making the impossible possible has now become ingrained in Urban Journey’s culture”.
4. Drive out fear
Fear is a major issue that can stifle businesses and prevent people from performing at their peak. Focus energy on building trust by giving people autonomy over tasks, decision making, and taking calculated risks. Studies show that when people feel ownership over a task, it has a positive and significant impact on their work. Inevitably there will be times when things go wrong, but learning from failure and celebrating successes will allow people to keep moving forward, minus the fear.
5. Can we talk?
Communication is key when it comes to nurturing company culture. Weekly meetings where everyone contributes will allow team members to see how they slot into the bigger picture. Encouraging people to ask questions, share ideas, offer solutions, and provide updates about what’s going on around the business will promote collaboration. When everyone is aware of an organisation’s goals, and how their actions can directly impact the bottom line, it’s easier to move in the right direction with purpose.
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