4 Low-Cost Moves Startups Use to Build Company Culture
What attracts top technology talent to organizations such as Google, Facebook, Twitter and Apple? Some may say that the draw is the opportunity to work on challenging problems for a company with the largest market share in the world in its category. But the real reason these companies can attract and retain top talent is that they have some of the strongest cultures in the world.
Salil Pradhan, a venture partner at Draper Nexus Ventures and the Network of Things fund, mentioned that when she and her partners are considering a seed-stage deal, they'll often ask, “Will [the startup] be able to attract the right talent?” when what they really should ask is, “Can they set the right culture?”
As the co-founders of Insightfully, my colleagues and I wanted to get our own culture right from the start. We knew that retaining impeccable talent at that early, critical stage would mean fuel for growth, and the right team-member fit.
This got me to thinking about how to build a company culture -- and how to do that for little or no cost. Here is how five entrepreneurs I know or know of built their companies' cultures for under $200.
1. Hire and invest in personal growth.
As the managing director of Sun Group Wealth Partners, Winnie Sun believes that hiring the right type of person is extremely important, because her firm deals specifically with one-on-one client interaction on a daily basis. “We hire team members based on two things: character and integrity," Sun says. "We believe it is our responsibility to train rather than require experience, and we keep role definition flexible for the initial six weeks."
For example, Sun says, "We had a Wall Street professional join us with 30-plus years at several large firms; and after working with her, we learned that her passion and strengths were [more suited to] the role of a financial advisor. She had previously wanted, but never been given the opportunity, to pursue the higher-level position. We shifted gears, mentored and trained her differently, and now she works with clients daily in an advisory role.”
Similarly, Rahul Varshneya, the CEO of Arkenea, a mobile development firm in India and the United States, mentions that, “Employees define their career and growth path within the company, rather than set it as a rule or as structured tiers." Varshneya adds that that policy at Arkenea has contributed to far lower attrition rates, compared to the industry benchmark.
2. Welcome employees from the start.
Once they begin a new job, employees are usually inundated with multiple onboarding sessions, and have to become accustomed to the work. Chad Halvorson, CEO of When I Work, mentions that he makes sure employees feel valued the moment they start working for the company.
“As soon as offers are accepted, we send our new employees an employee welcome kit that includes free When I Work swag and a handwritten letter from their manager and the CEO," Halvorson says. "We also follow-up with an email that provides them with 'next steps' and gives them an idea of what to expect when they start in their new role.”
3. Build a sense of community.
Making sure your employees are comfortable at all times is extremely important, especially because of the cross-functionality of teams. But what is the most effective way to bring employees on the same playing field? Murray Newlands, the founder of Due.com (and an Entrepreneur contributor) believes that getting out of boring airless rooms is the biggest way to build culture.
“At Due.com, we like to walk as we hold team meetings," Newlands says. "Getting outside the office into the fresh air and getting some exercise wakes you up and improves creative thinking.”
4. Lead by example and level the playing field.
How many times have you seen CEOs of Fortune 500 companies flying in private jets and working wherever they want, while their employees are at the home office grinding away? Someone like Blake Morgan, the founder of Flight Digital, says he values realness over set timings.
“I have a small team I work with, and what I've learned is that I need to emulate the culture I want to see in the company," Morgan says. "I value workplace flexibility, as I'm often working, because I don't work 9-5, and I don't work in one location. My team sees this and knows that's okay for them. It's all about results. I don't care about when or where anyone works. I value realness -- and that means being honest and transparent and acting with integrity for one another and the client.”
Culture is one of the strongest components of a successful organization. The main thing to remember is that company founders are attracting people to build a vision, and beyond financial incentive, their feeling that they are a part of something greater than themselves is truly what makes successful organizations work.