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An article you read, a podcast you listen to, or a founder you speak to says, “Startups are hard.”
I can’t agree more, but what do you mean by ‘hard’? Is it difficult because you don’t have enough money? Is it difficult because there are so many competing priorities? Are you tired of struggling to pull everything together while appearing successful to your customers, partners, and staff?
The answer is an overwhelming YES to all of the above. Startups are hard. But they are also just right for those who want to continuously learn and grow. And they are right for people who are passionate about establishing their own company culture that reflects their values. A deliberate approach to corporate culture can be the difference between success or failure for any startup.
I have over 20 years of experience in Fortune 100 technology companies. I worked in small branch offices and headquarters in remote parts of the world. Both settings had steady and sometimes very large budgets and teams. I knew the company’s values, understood and practiced the corporate culture, and knew exactly how to manage the systems, processes, and policies that supported my business and career field. Moved fluidly between headquarters and field roles. There was a consistent corporate feel and employee “type” no matter where the office was on the map. This is true for offices with fewer than 20 employees and thousands. Wherever I was, there was a familiar logo structure and security at the door, and systems and processes to connect to the larger corporate, sales, marketing, finance, and HR systems.
Related: 5 must-haves for entrepreneurs and their startups to succeed
When I stepped into my first role leading a startup, all the time I spent working remotely in a field office, I knew I was ready to lead a small organization. I know how to do it, talk to customers, create amazing PowerPoint presentations, and back it up with sophisticated Excel financial forecasts. I didn’t expect the role of corporate culture in business success. My career was steeped in an already established business culture, so I took it for granted.
Like most startup founders, my priorities are how to make money, how to achieve the holy grail of product market fit, where the first tranche of funding is coming from, and how many runways I have. I was focusing on dolphins. I kept my head down and drove hard to succeed. I failed. I spent all my money in ways that didn’t make sense in hindsight. And I never thought much about the type of company culture I wanted to build. I put the team in place and stepped into the position, but I really questioned what kind of company that group of people would be and how much of an impact that would have on the products we bring to market. I never presented it.
RELATED: Go Hard or Go Home: A Game Plan for Startups Wanting to Survive a Recession
Not giving up easily, I started another business using the lessons learned about how to spend and save money, understand your needs before building a product, and even how to market and raise more money. rice field. This time, I decided to put the company’s mission and culture first. My co-founder and I come from very different business backgrounds, but we share a sense that culture is one, if not the most important, factor for success. This approach worked, and we assembled a team deeply committed to our business mission of achieving economic gender equality.
Here are the top five steps to building a culture of success.
Prioritize communication. Do it regularly to reinforce your company’s core mission, values, and direction. Share your business dealings, financial situation, short-term goals and long-term aspirations. Ask for information and feedback on the state of the business and how the team feels about the market direction, products and locations.
Related: 6 Communication Tips to Strengthen Company Culture
2. Make difficult choices
A small startup team can be like family. You are dependent on each other and often have rapport that goes beyond the professional. This becomes difficult when things go sideways with one member of your family. Making the difficult decision to let someone go can be painful in the short term, but it’s good for your team and strengthens your long-term culture of building. It can also lead to surprising and unexpected opportunities.
3. Reward work
I don’t really believe in giving teams free drinks or office foosball tables. Continuing to invest in building your business to strengthen your investment in the company speaks louder and is more profitable than superficial, short-term entertainment perks. Remember to celebrate your victories, even if they are small.
RELATED: How to Reward Your Employees in Uncertain Times
4. Tell the truth
When things go wrong, and as is often the case with startups, own it. Talk about it, learn how to improve it, and make sure your team doesn’t repeat the mistake. Optimism is a hallmark of startup founders and teams, but the refusal to admit things are going wrong can damage the business, or at least imbue the corporate culture with a superficial element that creates mistrust. .
5. Enjoy what you do
You and your team are working hard to grow your business. Never forget the drive and passion that drew you and the team in the first place. No matter how successful or large your organization may be, without a culture in which your team feels invested and enjoys contributing to its mission, there is no sustainable business.
Yes, startups are hard. But if you intentionally create a healthy business culture that reflects your company’s mission and values, startups can be a little easier and a lot more fun.