With the right culture, a startup can motivate, thrive and lead its people to a lasting legacy

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Editor’s Note: Here’s a story from our archives we feel is relevant even today and deserves your attention

Recently, I spoke to my friend, a 31-year-old startup CEO, about his startup story. Hitesh was surprisingly bullish on his emphasis not just on the new products but on the new culture his team was creating. This led me to think about what is so key about creating a culture within a startup team And as a startup or small business owner, what can you expect.

What is startup culture?

Startup culture is defined brilliantly by Professor Brene Brown in her book — Daring Greatly. She says:

“I’ve yet to find a strong argument that strategy is more important than culture. I think everyone agrees in theory that “who we are” is at least as important as “what we want to achieve”…’the way we do things around here’, or culture is complex… We can’t give people what we don’t have. Who we are matters immensely more than what we know or who we want to be.”

A culture, not being used as a growth hacking or marketing strategy, but is designed to both actively engage employees around the world and create shareholder value. A culture is something that your company can create a legacy with!

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Why is startup culture important?

There are plenty of reasons cited by research on why investment in creating a culture is key to success of a business or a startup.

Inspires people: Research indicates that after a certain level, a higher salary does not inspire or motivate people. Creativity, a sense of joy at being able to make a difference, being able to have fun, having the time and flexibility to perform, and create something special, inspires employee.

Adds value: The digital-native generation demands a focus on culture. Millennials want a focus not just on daily nine to five work, but on the intangibles of what a job and a career can bring to their lives and create meaning.

Creates innovation: Creative, engaged employees are on their most productive best and thrive in cultures that support their ideology. This allows for greater innovation in your company. Like most things business, innovation is a team sport.

Startup culture

Image source: Unified Inbox

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What challenges do companies face in creating strong startup culture?

Some challenges that startups have often talked about:

Work/ product pressures may make focus on culture hard. Many owners/founders see themselves moving towards different priorities (cash flow, keeping investors happy, getting coffee) instead of a pure focus on culture. What you experience is different from what is written down or expected.

Hiring and attracting talent that fits in with the culture you want to create is hard. Globalisation and remoteness brings added pressures and challenges to a company that is trying to build its culture. And it can potentially make it harder for a company to attract talent or showcase a consistent culture. Toby Ruckert, Founder and CEO, UCaaS startup Unified Inbox that launched a unique Global internship programme recently in keeping with its global and remote set-up, shared his thoughts on talent and startup culture:

“The real question here is: ‘What is talent?’ Talent is often something that people see in you that you don’t see in yourself because you’re a natural at doing something. When you perform with extraordinary capabilities and others applaud you, you eventually notice. Many times, people don’t even know they have this talent. You need to develop an eye for spotting talent. Everyone wants to hire successful people in the nicest offices, offering the fanciest perks, but success happens when people discover their talents within the framework of the culture you develop.”

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Defining culture: Many startups and small business are led by a single person’s great idea and philosophy. And considering culture is something more fluid and dynamic, many struggle to see the importance of investing into defining culture. Not a founder’s personal ideology — which may be well set, but a team culture, that flows and keeps growing. Many tend to look at competition or aspirational companies and define their own culture based on that. This makes it much harder because culture, like content, needs to be organically grown to have real long-term impact.

What are your experiences in creating a cultural legacy with your startups?