When most people think of the culture at a startup, what comes to mind? Most likely, “startup culture” evokes images of a small team working furiously on a product launch or update in a casual office environment with a ping pong table and bean bag chairs. But the startup culture goes much deeper than free snacks and a laid back but productive work environment. Here are 7 ways to build and maintain a startup culture.
1) Encourage the entrepreneurial spirit.
Being entrepreneurial is the essence of a startup and is often inherent in very small startup teams. But when you have a team of 3000, people often feel they have no voice and creativity can suffer. Consider hosting a hackathon for developers to show off their skills. Or have an Idea Wall for team members to publicly brainstorm. This will encourage everyone to contribute by providing an example for all team members to follow. Creativity is contagious.
2) Establish ways to bring meaning to your work.
Working at a startup means you have to be inherently passionate about the company and the product or service it provides, but it is also important to show staff the impact of their work on customers and the community. For instance, at WebDAM we’re fortunate to work with large international non-profits. Sharing their stories of success adds meaning to what we do. Consider sponsoring a charity event and forming a company team. You can even bring meaning to the workplace by simply being transparent with all the missions and goals of the company. This will help your team feel like it has a strong place and stake in the startup.
3) Build brand loyalty from within.
At big tech companies like Google and Facebook, it’s all but impossible to escape the companies’ brands emblazoned all over their sprawling campuses. But at a startup, logos and brand colors may not be as ubiquitous, so make sure to find ways to reinforce your brand. Consider a welcome bag for new employees with branded swag or other items meaningful to your startup story. It’s also helpful to have team members contribute to your company’s social and marketing campaigns (consider a contest for the most “social” employee), and having a fun mascot never hurts.
4) Encourage your team to “Work Hard, Play Hard.”
Having consistent team events like monthly parties and get togethers are extremely important to creating camaraderie across teams. Bringing the whole company together once a month to celebrate achievements helps individuals from the sales team, for example, interact with engineering more than they might typically get to do. Incorporating friendly competitions (utilize that ping pong table!) is healthy for a startup environment, and it can often translate into friendly competition during work hours as well, increasing productivity. Make sure that you and your team are playing as hard as you work.
5) Bring Scrum methodologies to the whole team.
In software development, Scrum is a principal that lets a team quickly adapt to different problems that crop up during the development process, allowing for a really aggressive timeframe achieving higher levels of productivity. It’s a good idea to apply the Scrum methodologies to every part of your business, which will help you expedite your time to market for everything. If you’re too slow as a startup, you’ll get crushed. Agility and the ability to adapt will allow even a small team to get things done fast and efficiently. Agility is, after all, your biggest advantage as a startup. Use it!
6) Appreciate and relish new ways of thinking.
This will ensure that your startup never gets in the habit of saying, “We’ve always done it this way.” Diversify your hiring to bring in new ideas and avoid snatching up talent from the competition. Also, make sure you’re giving as much visibility to new ideas from unexpected people as you do to ideas from seasoned vets. Your Idea Wall will help with this!
7) Celebrate individual accomplishments as team wins.
Amplify an individual’s success by making an announcement to the whole staff. If someone on the sales team closes a deal, make sure everyone knows and gets a pat on the back. You may even consider rewarding cross functional teams for big wins – after all, without engineering or the marketing team, the deal wouldn’t get done!
Giving each team member a distinct, strong voice, adhering to a strong internal and external brand, acknowledging wins as team efforts and keeping an open mind will help foster the entrepreneurial spirit in all your employees and strengthen and sustainably grow your startup’s culture.
What are some of your favorite ways to build a strong culture?