Why Building A Culture Early Is A Critical Mission For Startups
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A startup is mostly fueled by a lone genius, but to become a successful one, group wisdom is a must-have. To make sure that the startup has a high growth potential for rapid growth, any team that is working on it must be synchronized to a common goal.
It is here that the startup’s cultural values are crucial to working at sync. As mentioned earlier, a startup's success is highly driven by its team's success, so creating a culture that can build an environment full of high spirits and mutual understanding to attain certain goals is of utmost importance.
Venu and I were meeting Suresh Rajpal, a key advisor, on a winter weekend. He’s one of those very few experienced professionals who have worked on both sides of the spectrum. Suresh led a global giant MNC to leadership and then later founded and scaled up a startup; both equally successfully.
As we discussed about parentune’s future, he went into a reflective mood, taking a pause. He said, “How is parentune’s culture? Is it sticky?” And it took us some time to get back to him. I remember that chat, almost impossible to forget what he said. Suresh in his true style with an unshakable stare said, “I know you want the best to come in and work with you at Parentune. How will you fight these large firms who are laying out the red carpet out for top talent.” And then he said, “Culture my friend, that’s culture, that is the glue.”
I remember thinking through my own career and some of my friends’. Some of my most talented and successful friends were testimony to what Suresh said, they did not work just for money, in fact, the places which they did their best work, were not the best paymasters.
Whenever I think of this chat, I remember this line from Dave Kelly, IDEO’s founder,
“Group wisdom or lone genius”.
That chat on a winter afternoon in Gurgaon got both of us co-founders to reflect and create what we call PIPLI, parentune’s culture with the ethos of Speed, Fun and Learn for each of our team member.
Culture is the filter
The conception of Parentune happened on the premise of listening closely to parents’ pain points, and one of the key insights from those interactions was the true value of collaboration and validation. We wanted to build that in our DNA, so each time any one of us is working on something, we reach out to team members and parents for their feedback or queries. That has now become inherent to our culture, to all of us.
The power of “1”
A key tenet at parentune’s culture is to help individualS become successful. There are several cultural values, which are entrenched in our daily work, which support this. For e.g. Every team member presents an idea to move things better supported by data (value-eye for detail) in the cutting session every alternate Friday in a crisp 3 minutes presentation. The idea is then collaborated by other team members who join in to make it successful.
“Culture is reflective in the speed and quality with which a Founder’s vision is made a reality by the team.”
The reason to exist
Building a culture early on emanated from our mission and a few collective beliefs, which went on to become key cultural values for us. For e.g. we are committed to supporting parents in doing what is right for their child; and that is not easy. You need a high self-drive, a never give up attitude and a good eye for detail to achieve this. These three are key cultural values at Parentune and we looked for these while bringing our first 2 team members onboard. It has helped us move faster with a lean and closely-knit team throughout our journey.
They say talent attracts more talent, and while we recruited for cultural values, it helped us attract the right talent in future as well.
Weather the storm
Everything that goes up, comes down and vice versa. Let’s just say, this happens more often at a startup and the lows can get to their lowest. When that happens, a startup could face an ugly cash crunch, and not many sail through that, to the other side.
Culture binds and keeps the team strong when the weather gets rough. Relaying these cultural values at regular intervals within our team through ROOTS, a regular team catch-up exercise focused on our key cultural values has helped us weather several storms.
“At a corporate, people join the firm and leave their managers, but at a startup, talented people join the Cofounders and the startup’s culture. A startup could recruit for talent but needs culture to inspire.”