What’s the fuss about startup cultures?
Before going down a career path, one needs to have in mind the general direction that this path will take you. You figure out what fits best with your expectations and personalities. And for many, startups are becoming the more preferred option for young professionals.
Millennials are rejecting the traditional roles laid out in corporate environments in exchange for a fresher, and more alternative work life. Corporates are beginning to take a page out of startups books, opting for a less traditional culture of Friday bars and open plan seating.
But why are people choosing startups, and what makes them unique?
A startup is an entrepreneurial venture, a freshly raised business that demands an effective and scaled validation of its business model. Startups have a high rate of failure and only a few of them reach their expectations and objectives. But boy are they passionate about what they do.
By no means is it easy to build a strong and healthy startup culture though. It is even harder to maintain due to the progressive growth of most startups. What makes it more challenging is that Founders (and sole leaders of the company) are often preoccupied with the many elements of running a business. This pushes the creation of a strong company culture to the background.
And yes! Startup cultures are more than just Friday bars, free coffee and a place for friendships to blossom. It’s about the commitment of the team and the personal work and effort you put into a startup.
How you build the culture is what makes employees feel like they are in the correct place, and admire their workplace. A company culture embodies many elements. Its values, productivity, versatility, teamwork, communication, passion, and ability to take risks are all ingredients that make a startup culture!
In this article, these elements will be explained in depth with examples to help you understand the elements easily.
Every company must have a set of company values to stimulate their current and future employees to achieve their goals. These values embody the essence of the company, and it’s up to both the employees and the managers of a company to influence the overall values. It is indispensable to do so for the following reasons.
- Firstly, it will make your employees feel like a part of the organization management.
- Secondly, it will give them a reason to truly enjoy their work and make their colleagues do the same, and consequently increases company productivity.
It’s important to remember that reminders of these values should be a regular occurrence so that every time the team grows and new employees come in, they are not lost. Spending time with your colleagues is another way to make them become better and more productive at work.
One example is morning learning sessions! Founder of Zappos, Tony Hsieh emphasizes how important it is to bring the correct values to your company from day one when the company is still small. It builds a great culture allowing for an inclusive environment for your team to collaborating, reflect and discuss.
“If I could go back and do Zappos all over again I would actually come up with our values from day one.” - Tony Hsieh, ZapposClick To Tweet
At a startup, there is no instruction book. Everyone creates “the culture”. Every employee has an impact on the dedication, hard work, responsibility and appetite for learning and scaling. In fact, with your commitment and eagerness, you make the culture. If you do not like traditional methods and rules, startups are a place for you!
Productivity in the workplace is what many managers and professionals struggle with. Trying to encourage employees to work harder and stop wasting time can be frustrating. However, if employees find it difficult to be productive at work, it may be a sign that something is wrong with the culture of the office. Positive work culture definitely increases your productivity.
- Positive work cultures = happier employees
It is a problem when employees feel fear in the workplace, constantly checking the time to see if 5 pm has rolled around and they are finally off. They will be doing less than the minimum, never wanting to show their skills and knowledge. How do you combat this? EASY!
If you establish a work culture that employees feel a part of where they are completely integrated, it will be directly reflected in their involvement and motivation to grow. When employees are happy with their jobs, they are more likely to stick around. When you have a high turnover rate it will be more challenging to integrate employees with the workplace.
- Positive work cultures foster collaboration
In a positive work environment, employees feel integrated when they know the rest of the team members. This doesn’t mean that you need to integrate your personal life with your workplace. But fostering positive workplace connections with colleagues are highly beneficial.
The benefits of encouraging better workplace relationships help to increase the productivity of the team. They will become more focused and best of all they’ll be less likely to get sick. According to researcher Sarah Pressman from the Univeristy of California, you’re 70% more likely to significantly decrease your life expectancy by working in a toxic environment.
- Positive work cultures spark creativity
There is a hierarchy in every company. No matter what people say there will always be someone working above you. From the top to managers, to the entry-level employees and interns. But when this hierarchy is not working as it should, the newbies may feel that they do not have the same opportunities as the rest.
When employees feel that they cannot speak up they will not feel open to sharing their creative ideas. When employees feel like they’re able to speak up about their opinion on the best idea for solving a problem or making a product or service better, they’ll feel open to discussing their creative ideas. A fresh point of view and idea is always important for productivity.
Startups can be a hectic place. It’s common for employees to be working on multiple projects at once. And it can be a lot to handle. The high amount of activity and projects going on can’t flow fluently without good internal communication. This means being able to be transparent, honest and open to new ideas.
Projects do not go always as expected so you must have the capability to solve issues in the best way, and show that you can work with different people cultivating a chummy culture in the office. John Milinovich, currently CEO and co-founder at Plato Design and the latest CEO at URX, a mobile advertising startup owned by Pinterest, was truly concern about internal communication and how when a startup is scaling it is a key element not to forget about the team.
Let everyone knows what is happening and in which phase the company is in. Everyone will be in the same boat. It is of course easier to implement in a startup as the overall team is much smaller. Make some team sessions where everyone feel free to ask questions, share ideas and opinions; Is the solution to it! As Milinovich said: “It creates a safe space where people are not just allowed to mix things up, but given express permission to call things out. It also primes people to not take things personally.”
If culture is the foundation of any great company, trust is the foundation for what builds great teams.
An example of this is “the trusted battery monitors” (the current level of trust between employees). If the battery is fully charged, it grants decisions to be made faster. On the contrary, when it is low, everything becomes more difficult.
Listen first, decide, and then communicate. The order here is key.
According to Lütke, CEO of Shopify, there are only two kinds of days – “one when your team gets better and ones when your team gets worse.” The day when your team gets better are the days when the trust battery is fully charged.One way to build trust is to encourage debates. Encourage employees to express themselves. Allow them to challenge your ideas. It will be difficult at first, but once they see that it is okay to disagree, the participation alone will help you make big decisions more efficiently. Startups are great at this. The smaller teams means that employees throughout the company will know each other well.
The big four
Startups are great. You are no longer constrained by strict dress codes, and you can essentially rock up in board shorts and a pair of flip flops. At a startup, you have the freedom to let your creative side flow. The most bohemian wins! The offices are not like the conventional ones. At a startup, it is about people sharing goals, ideas, and space. Maybe they do not have all the resources but definitely the basic ones to be able to flourish.
Flexibility means being able to react to unexpected situations and approach them victoriously. You have the ability to adapt to different work positions. Today you may be a UX designer, but tomorrow you could be swinging by the customer success department. What you may not gain in salary, you most certainly gain in experience. A good example is Project September – an app making the visual world instantaneously shop-able.
Its founder and CEO, Alexis Maybank, believes that its crucial to ground your team in flexibility; “Flexibility is one of the most important core values you can establish as a part of the ethos at your company.” She says.
Contrary to corporations, startups work as a big family which means that everyone gets impacted by failures as well as achievements. Diversity is also a plus, you will probably share the desk with people from different countries, backgrounds, and experiences. Therefore you need to be that kind of person who is up to learn new material every day. Don’t expect to specialize in only one thing. You are continuously learning.
GrowthX, a venture capital firm with a training academy are exemplary from their meetings where they reiterate their core values, the company’s mission, and actionable items. Moreover, they love celebrating their small victories with monthly events and they also encourage their team to adapt to a growth mentality.Make your team feel respected, empowered and genuinely excited about the company’s mission. –Tim Westergren, Pandora FounderClick To Tweet
The most important one! It has to be your passion, you must love what you do, wanting to accomplish more as you learn and grow. Being a part of a startup team is hard, and not everyone is up to it, but you must enjoy it while living through this great experience. There are different types of passion. It can be because of your work and tasks, the service or product the company is offering, your workmates, or for other reasons.
Whatever your reason is, you should feel it! An example of a startup where passion flourishes is Autopilot. Autopilot is an email marketing and customer on-boarding software company. They’re great at celebrating the smalls wins and putting their mission statement in front of every challenge. Moreover, their fans rave about their customer support and transparency.
Working at startup you should be ready to go all out. Be innovative and creative and look beyond a “one solution fits all” approach. Startups have the environment that encourages taking control of the situation, knowing full well that it could fail but getting on with the job despite the road bumps and giving it 110%.
Dan Norris, the co-founder of WP Curve, a WordPress support service is also the author of the famous and fantastic book “The 7 Day Startup: You Don’t Learn Until You Launch”, and the book’s title defines his story. After struggling for nearly a year to not let his project fail, he abandoned it and went with an entirely new idea. After seven days, he had a business with paying customers. It proved that success comes from failure, so why not take the risk?
Could you imagine yourself working a normal nine to five, wearing suits everyday, arriving in the same concrete block for the rest of your life? Thankfully, the work environment has changed dramatically. Especially in startups. For most, they are quite shocked when they start working at a startup. With the informal atmosphere you’re able to fully be yourself and let your creative side flourish. And one thing you could never have pictured was cleaning dishes in the kitchen with the CEO. Times are changing.