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How to Keep the Startup Culture as Your Company Grows

Keeping startup culture when company grows

Culture is a pattern of thinking. Your startup culture is most likely spontaneous. As your startup grows you will need to examine and refine your company culture and how to leverage this as you scale your business. Using new business and accounting software will become essential to growing your business and hiring new recruits who can effectively use this software will become a core competency.

 

Getting Started

A startup culture is a workplace environment that values creative problem solving, open communication and a flat hierarchy. Core values should form the identity of your startup and these include; vision and mission statements, products and services, and customer service.

In the U.S., where competition for talent is often fierce, startups commonly recruit the most suitable employees by offering perks and providing a great company culture. The entrepreneurial spirit is highly valued for employees within the American startup culture, with Google using “20% time” to encourage employees to pursue side projects in innovation.

In India, on the other hand, it’s more of an employer’s market. For those companies with strong business models and adequate funding, talent is plentiful. Workers often forgo perks or recognition simply to hang on to their jobs. The workplace culture can also tend toward micromanagement rather than employee autonomy. This leads to achieving results, but at the cost of some employee satisfaction due to increased pressure.

If you are starting a new office in Asia why not take the best of both worlds, and match your existing culture, forged in your domestic market, with local norms.

 

Growth Culture

“Culture is the secret ingredient to scaling up a company,” said one seasoned startup mentor, adding, “To scale hiring, you have to figure out culture. Without a good culture, retention will become an issue and building talent pipelines will become challenging.”

A vibrant and healthy culture acts as a magnet that helps attract and retain employees who in turn recommend you to their network of talented professionals. Documenting culture is a foundation for scaling your business.

 

Measuring Culture

Key staff who have been with your startup for 1-2 years may develop serious concerns about their career development. As an SME leader, it is essential that you communicate specifically to mid-career employees about existing opportunities for development, and also come up with some new strategies to create attractive, appropriate opportunities.

Measuring culture makes growth actionable. Specifically, if you intend to IPO your startup, what is your plan to deal with the exodus of talent who will become much wealthier the day after the IPO? When you have 20 employees in a startup, and you lose 15 percent, it’s just three people. This should be manageable. But, if you have 100 employees and are growing fast, losing 20 people while trying to grow by another 50 people will be very challenging. Plan to prevent an exodus not to mitigate its impact.

 

People Culture

Think of HR not as a back office function but as your engine of growth. Specifically in sourcing talent that is aligned with your startup culture. Appoint a Chief People Officer.

Part of this strategic role is to institutionalize your culture. Create a ‘Culture Code’ that shows your employees that you highly value individual contributors. Employees who masters their role quickly, as well as those who support these individuals in their efforts.

Every month, get your CPO to review the employees who have worked in the same role in the same location for more than two years. Make sure you expand their opportunities for learning and advancement before they begin to think of expanding them at a competitor or elsewhere. You can measure the effectiveness of this by calculating the net increase in employees’ year-on-year. Institutionalising culture builds a robust and durable culture beyond startup.

Patterns of thinking can and should change and develop. Maintaining your startup culture involves sticking to valuing creative problem solving, open communication and a flat hierarchy as you scale your business. Core values should be reexamined continuously as you revise and refine your company vision and mission, products and services.

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