You and your co-founding team really got this awesome idea- It can change life of millions. This could be the next unicorn (Bn$ valuation), if done rightly. The plan is laid out. Off course you’ve read all great blogs and watched some important videos on how to do everything right. You tested the product-market fit before building any MVP (minimum viable product) and with so many early sign-ups, you think you can raise some venture capital money. You've a great pitch so you can really define the unique proposition in those 8–10 words. The big meeting day is here and on 7th slide- which is about the team , someone asks you- So whats your culture?

What do you think the answer could be, more likely than not, the answer would be some form of…

Ours is very open culture, we give our team members full freedom, our core values are transparency and honesty. We believe in giving full authority and autonomy to the team…and so on and so forth.

What does the audience get out of it…Ours is a very open culture…blah blah blah, we value blah blah blah…., we do it by doing blah blah ! fully jargonated!

Pick any startup pitch-deck template, you get clues and format for everything to build a great pitch and what VCs are looking for, but what is missing — how do you build a great culture. Look at any multi-national corporation- fostering an organizational culture is an important aspect of the leadership team. And believe you me, its not something you can create when you are $10 M or 100+ people company. It has to start right when you hire your first employee. You need to talk about it, document it and articulate it every now and then.

For most of the startups, culture is incidental, everyone in office is moving around in cargo-pants or shorts, most of the times its because its how you dress as a founder. You show up at work any time of the day, work for few hours, switch-off and then slog at night- its called flexi working …no harm in that but be prepared to have your team work like that.

When you build a company, the DNA gets formed how the founding team behaves, and it is always advisable to be vary of that fact. So while you focus on product, customer experience, revenue and other metrics, stop by sometimes and think what culture are you building. And here are few things you can do..

  1. Try to build a company which people will love working for and above everything else people will love your company for its culture.
  2. Demonstrate the core values you care for. Work-life balance, Transparency, Honesty ..everything you care for should be visible in your actions.
  3. Define whats important and whats acceptable, it will by and large create your culture.
  4. Write down your company culture- in simple words as you will write your mission & vision statement.
  5. Take time to design, how you’ll hire for culture fit- its very difficult but great organizations do it. In the end it will matter who you let-in and who you let-go.

In the end, you really have to walk the talk, as a startup, company culture will start from you- the founding team, no one else. If this is an area which got ignored in the rush of doing other things, I suggest you watch Dharmesh Shah’s this video on Hubspot's culture. This could be your starting point.

Below quote sums it all-

“Corporate culture is the only sustainable competitive advantage that is completely within the control of the entrepreneur.” – David Cummings, Co-Founder, Pardot

read more startup stories of mine here....

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