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Building Company Culture at Startups (and Maintaining It)

Startup culture is a foreign country; they do things differently there! If you’ve taken the huge leap of starting your own business and have much of the foundational work done, we have the map to get you through building company culture as a startup.

Just the term “startup culture” brings immediate images to mind. Many people think of fun and quirky perks like a beer fridge in the conference room, dog-friendly offices, or vintage arcade games and ping pong tables in the breakroom. But instead of focusing on the perks, remember that startup culture means having a horizontal leadership structure with open, flexible communication. 

Startup founders and CEOs are typically open to feedback from their employees, and they value input from anyone working at the company. It’s less of a “work family” and more of a collection of people all motivated by the same goals and interests who all have a stake in the company and its final output.

Building Company Culture at a Startup

It’s important to remember that your company will only be as good as the people who work there. Their interests, wants, needs, values and abilities will influence every aspect of how the company runs, especially when building a startup working environment.

Know What You Want from the Outset

Would you try to start a business without a business plan? Maybe so, but it’s certainly more efficient and leads to more long-term success when you decide what you want to do upfront and then work towards it, instead of working towards an ill-defined goal and seeing what happens. 

Similarly, your company will have a mission and values whether you decide on one or not—but it’s better to establish it right from the beginning. Your mission should explain who you are, what you do, and why it matters. Your core values are the beliefs that will help shape great company culture from the very onset.

Lead with Your Mission and Core Values

After you’ve established your mission and core values, communicate them to your employees, so that they can work towards those goals. Put them on your website, write them in your employee handbook, and make sure to proactively train your team members on these crucial aspects of your business. 

Make sure your employees understand what’s expected of them, how your core values relate to the company’s mission, and why every employee matters. This gives an overall sense of meaning and responsibility, making sure your employees are fully buying into your startup culture instead of just punching a clock to collect a check. 

Knowing how their individual contributions add to the overall output of the company makes employees feel more involved, incentivizing better work. Having an understanding of how every piece fits together leads to a more cohesive company culture during the early days of the business.

Hire the Right People

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Especially at the beginning, it’s important to hire people who believe in your startup’s mission and align with your core values. Hiring for cultural fit and training for skills is easier than hiring someone who doesn’t value what your company does and trying to make them care, even if they’re the absolute best at the technical aspects of their job.

Maintaining Company Culture

Company culture isn’t a static thing that you can “set and forget.” Sometimes, as companies grow, the culture becomes distilled as people begin to focus more on themselves rather than the team as a whole. Culture requires continual upkeep to make sure everyone is still working smoothly and focused on the company’s success.

Reevaluate Your Culture on a Consistent Basis

In a lot of ways, company culture is influenced by employees as much as the leadership team. It is extremely beneficial to reevaluate your culture as the company expands. What worked for a small startup of ten people isn’t necessarily going to work for a larger company that has grown to dozens or hundreds of employees. Company culture is dynamic; it changes over time. The goal is to be proactive about building your culture and reinforcing what works while chucking anything that doesn’t.

Communication Is Everything

Since a virtual workplace is missing all the subtle, in-person social cues that most people don’t even realize are happening, it’s worth it to pay extra attention to communicating with a remote team. Zoom meetings, chat software, and email can do a lot but make sure to have policies in place so all expectations are clear.

Recognize and Reward Employees

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Since company culture comes from your employees, it makes sense to reward and recognize them when they’re displaying the culture and values you want your company to project. Consider recognizing and rewarding employees both formally (with bonuses, raises, promotions, etc.) and informally (say “thank you!” or send them a surprise Bondy with yummy treats) when you see them really walking the walk.

Show Genuine Care Towards All of Your Employees

With a remote team, it can be difficult to create an environment that emulates an actual workplace. It can be easy to miss out on all the little things that happen at an in-person office. Make an effort to learn about people’s hobbies and important life events, so your company culture can take into account the whole person, not just their work self.

At Bondy, company culture is everything to us, and we want to make sure that your startup business is as successful as it possibly can be. With the shift to remote work, many startups and established companies are trying to find new ways to create and maintain culture. Our curated gift boxes are tailored to employees who work from home!

We call these gift boxes Bondys, and our collection ranges from boxes of delicious snacks (with vegetarian and gluten-free options of course!), self-care packages, virtual team building activities and games, and office supplies to help your employees stay organized. Deliver culture, connection, and joy with Bondy!

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