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How to Create a Winning Startup Culture

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startup culture
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Some time back, in my infographic on 51 Business Mistakes that most Entrepreneurs Make, I had outlined that one of the biggest mistakes is that you do not give any thought as to what you consider would be a great startup culture. And, without good policies or HR to keep things in check, the startup begins to develop a toxic business culture.

You will find this problem in businesses in Japan a lot. The Japanese culture is that people should work harder and if any employee goes home early, or finishes his work faster than the other, they usually get snitched on to their bosses by their co-workers. Since, you are growing a startup, you may want to avoid all these hullabaloo as time is limited and money is precious. Your workforce is your primary foundation and you want to build it strong as everything else you do is going to be supported by your employees.

Therefore, here is what you do to streamline the company’s functions and develop a strong and great company culture:

Step #1. What are the values that you hold dear and want to be reflected by your startup?

Yeah, you are the boss, you are the man of the show. Since you run the startup, you need it to reflect the type of entrepreneur you are and the entrepreneurial qualities you have as best as possible. That way, you can run it better!

So, ask yourself, what quality do you want for your startup to be its brand identity? It can be anything. For example – if you think hustle is the best quality of a startup (although, I disagree), it can be – “being the hardest worker in the room”, or if you want your employees to have a quality personal life, it can be something else.

Now, when you have landed on some values which you hold dear, make sure everybody in your business knows it – the employees, your partners, the directors and even the janitors!

Step #2. Make Sure Employees (Both Present and Future) Reflect those Ideals

If all you look at when hiring employees is whether they have the requisite skills or not, then you could be doing a grave mistake. Studies have proven that employees who are not a cultural fit with your business shall not work their best.

Heck, they can even become toxic in nature and do more harm to your company culture than good. Suppose you have an open-door policy wherein any employee can talk to you directly; however a mid-level executive doesn’t want that and shouts at and harasses his juniors for going to you without passing through him first – what do you think is going to happen?

Your startup culture will be in-operational for just one worker and can hinder performance among all your employees. That’s why mistake #1 in my post on business mistakes showed that you need a good HR even if your business is new. An HR has relevant skills and expertise in hiring the best workers so that can be a breather for you and help your business focus on, where it is truly necessary.

Step #3. Make Sure Everyone’s Voice is Heard

In order to truly know whether every employee is resonating according to your business ideals, you have to make sure that the voice of employees at even the lowest level is heard. That way, you can be sure the startup culture has truly sunk in.

In order to create a culture that actually motivates the employees, you also have to make sure that they understand that their voice matters and that if they have any grievances to tell or advices to offer, it has a good chance to be acted upon.

Also, this step that is to make everybody’s voice heard should not be made only in a vertical direction that is only from down to the top; rather it should be made laterally. Colleagues should know what their teammates think and feel.

That way, it can promote good communication and the workplace is going to remain energized. You need to also support lateral feedback even if means you have to go above and out of what you should be doing.

Step #4. Give Feedback

Now, the above step will be quite redundant without this process in place. Your employees will stop saying what they feel if they believe that what they say will not be acted upon. Therefore, you have to be proactive in giving feedback to employees. Show them that their work counts and learn to motivate them. Hold interactive sessions, talk one-on-one with employees who have addressed their grievances to you and also share your thoughts on any input they have given.

That way, you actually know whether your company culture is striving or whether the employees have just put up a facade to please you. Now, an even more important point – there will always be some employees who go against the company culture or even rebel against them.

There are three ways to handle them which you must note and be careful of:

  1. Firstly, by providing gentle feedback about how you want things to be and remain in your business. This works against employees who unknowingly have strayed from the path and need just a gentle pat to return back on track. For example, if you have a company  culture on wearing formal attire and being extremely disciplined but you see a guy who is trying to break free, because he feels the clothes are very restrictive, you can guide him to a middle path.
  2. Secondly, by actively supporting him in his endeavour. You know, some people are really creative and can’t be bounded. While, it can do a lot of damage to your company culture, if you feel that the guy has got a lot to offer, you can let him be a wild horse. This usually applies to some very creative overachievers. These guys are usually rebels and if they don’t actually harm the way other employees do their work, it is best to keep them and encourage their habits! Seems rather odd, right!?
  3. Lastly, by firing him. Some people just poison the company culture. Toxic employees who are constantly fighting their peers or are late in finishing their work almost always need to be eradicated or else you risk the chance of demotivating your other employees.

While, it looks rather simple, it is the simple things that have the most effectiveness. Executing these principles at your startup can be the separating factor from just a startup and a startup with a workforce who are optimized to win!

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