Your Culture Is the Company Culture

You’re sitting in a crowd with thousands of people.  A presenter walks on stage.  She announces that your startup wins the award for ‘best company culture.’  Entrepreneur magazine and Ideator are going to write about it.

What do you want us to say?  To answer that question, we must first look at how founders create great culture.

Molly Graham, who helped define Facebook’s culture said, “As a founder, the things that set you apart become your company’s competitive advantages.”

What sets you apart?  Or more broadly stated: What do you know about yourself?  Have you taken a Gallup Strengths Finder, Myers Briggs, or DISC test?  If not, take one and set a foundation for what does set you apart.  Also, find out what people say about you today because it will be similar to what they say about your company in five years.  That thought should both excite you and make you think.

What are the top values that guide your life?  Is it transparency, discipline, integrity, fun, excellence, decisiveness, and clarity?  Words are easy to proclaim, but a cultural difference takes place when you define what they mean.  For example, let’s agree that transparency means ‘opening up sensitive information.’

The founders of Buffer and SumAll are open about everyone’s salaries.  They share the numbers with the entire team.  It’s done to eliminate their employees’ incentive to ask for more because no one knows what others are making.  It also allows bitter employees to speak up and learn how to resolve their issues. That’s one way great founders use transparency to give their startup a cultural competitive advantage – because it’s who they are.

What information can you share with your team?  If you don’t have a team yet, what information are you open about with your friends and family?  Cultivate a little more transparency in your life right now and watch how your people show up for you.  If this sort of transparency isn’t your thing, then replace it with another value, the point still stands.  I encourage you to write down what all your values mean to you and live them everyday.

Your employees, your partners, your vendors – they will all model your behavior, not your words.  So if you want people to show up with excellence, then you will need to be clear on what that means, so that others can recognize it when they meet you.

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