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Building corporate culture in startups

Your startup corporate culture is key to getting things done.  Corporate culture embodies your common corporate vision, goals, shared values, and beliefs of your company.  Its is easy to define
organizational culture from a top-down perspective.  You as the CEO can define the management structure, objectives and strategies of the business.  But, the corporate culture is the glue that defines how things actually get done.  Its one thing to define organizational processes and its another thing to understand how these processes actually happen.  If you’ve done a good job defining what the companies values are and how you  expect people to behave, then everything just gets easier.  If you reinforce this thru your HR team and your hiring practices then you’ll hire people that match how you get things done.  The backbone of your company is the people.  Having everyone with a shared social norm on how to get things done is super important. 

At my current company, we talk a lot about Passion, Leadership, and Trust.  We hold individuals accountable to run their roles as standalone leaders.  I talk often of having a team of empowered leaders that have a bias towards action.  There is no other way that 12 folks have been able to build a billion plus ad network in 8 months.  The things that we do on a daily basis reinforce this culture.  From the reporting of our metrics, to meetings, to our company events, I am often reminded of how the values dictate the behavior and the behavior dictates the values.

We just had an event this weekend where a bunch of the company participated in a race called the Urban Dare.  Its part amazing race meets trivial pursuit.  You have a partner and you must rely on an extended team to help you find clues while learning how to prioritize and allocate roles amongst your partner.  For our company, we don’t have a culture of having a casual BBQ.  We’d much rather run for 2-3 hours solving problems.  The event was fun and taught us a lot about how to move quickly by being measured and analytical in the way that we approached problems.  It turns out that each team figured out who the best backend-operations guy was and used the same researcher to find clues.  But, each team prioritized their time differently based on the strengths of their team.  Our CTO and developer analyzed the most efficient route before they first started to find clues and took public transportation since they agreed that they were not physically Mpire_015
ready to run the entire course.  Our young marketing guys went for speed and used aggressive tactics to flank competing teams, and my team used multiple researchers while we ran from each clue.  All of the approaches actually suited the styles of those team.  Winning was important to the teams and there was a side bet on who would  finish first (guess who won)

This exercise exercised our core beliefs as a company.  Without having to "plan" a leadership seminar or to "plan" fun like most companies we naturally build outside and internal structures to reinforce how we  get things done.  Your company is likely very different and I encourage you to think about how you can reinforce an ethos in your company around reinforcing and building a strong corporate culture.  You’ll  be more efficient, you’ll hire better, and inevitably build an organization that feels like a family versus a company.


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