The How-To: Building A Solid Culture In Early-Stage Startups

Building a strong company culture and set of values for an early-stage startup is essential to ensuring its success in the long term.

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A company’s culture can generally be interpreted as the shared set of values, goals, and practices that make it unique. It also includes other facets such as how well different teams function together and the employee experience. Building a strong company culture and set of values for an early-stage startup is essential to ensuring its success in the long term. After all, startups are often praised for their high energy and open culture.

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In my journey of building POSist for over a decade, which today serves over 9,000 restaurants with its cloud-based restaurant management software and has presence over 35 countries, my co-founder and I have been at the forefront of building an energetic, innovative, and high-performance culture at our enterprise. Here are a few tips from my experience that startup leaders can adopt to identify and form their culture:

1. Define the company’s mission and vision For startups, by defining the company’s mission and vision, all the organization’s employees can be kept on the same page, and aligned to a single binding vision. As the startup grows and new employees are hired, it would also help them understand the company’s ethos and work independently, and make decisions that align with the mission and vision.

2. Check culture fit before hiring Hire employees for their resume and who they are, as well as their values. For early-stage startups, the first few hires are the most important, as they set the tone for the company’s budding culture and the founders. For this, keep cultural fit as an essential pillar while evaluating potential hires, and also ask employees to recommend future employees.

However, make sure you do not hire the same type of employees time and again, as having diverse people from different backgrounds with complementary strengths are an added asset for any organization. At POSist, we consciously hire and work with talent from diverse backgrounds from different countries, and due to this diversity of viewpoints, we have been able to solve some of the complex challenges of running restaurants across continents.

3. Provide a pleasing work environment Working in a positive work environment enhances employees’ productivity and motivation. Invest in decor for your office, choose themes and colors that reflect your company’s values and industry, but don’t be shy of adding some fun elements to it in the form of quirky posters, murals, etc. Furthermore, include a break-out area in your workplace- it shows employees that taking a break is encouraged, and it also allows them to engage more freely with other employees. At POSist, we have different recreation zones in our office premises, and employees are free to access them any time of the day.

4. Focus on team bonding exercises The culture of a company is much more than its values and mission; it is also defined by how well different teams work interact with each other. To ensure this, it is essential to invest time in company retreats and offsites, as they act as a great way to boost inter team spirit and synergy. The idea here is to bring employees from different teams together who usually don’t get to work with each other. For instance, at POSist, we regularly plan “workcations,” wherein the team travels to different cities and work remotely from there.

5. Allow room for failure By giving employees the freedom to fail and learn from their mistakes, you will let them take ownership of their work and enhance their accountability. In a startup environment, some projects might eventually not work out as planned, since that is part and parcel of working in a space that changes rapidly as it grows. Allow innovation in product and ways of working, and in case something doesn’t work out, help your team fix it, and encourage your team members to record learnings from this experience, and try again. 

6. Recognize that culture flows from the top While the leadership must take time to identify its core values, it is also essential for them to embody those values. Building a solid company culture takes time and continuous effort, and employees often look at their leaders to take cues as to how to behave in challenging situations. Engage with your employees regularly, be authentic and transparent in your interactions, and your employees would likely behave in the same way.

7. Build a high-performance culture While building your startup culture, you should also focus on making it a high-performance culture. Each employee should understand what is expected of them from the day they join the company, and how to achieve those goals. For this, set up SMART -specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-based- goals for each team member. Allow team members to take ownership of their work, and abstain from micromanaging; employees don’t feel trusted when you micromanage them. Ensure a healthy competition between teams, but at the end of the day, everyone should realize how they are a part of one single team, i.e., the company at large.

Related: Love Where You Work: The Essential Elements Of A Meaningful Company Culture

Sakshi Tulsian

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Sakshi Tulsian is the co-founder and Chief Revenue Officer of POSist Technologies, a leading cloud-based restaurant technology platform used by over 9,000 restaurants across the Middle East, UK, US, Southeast Asia, and LATAM. In her role, Sakshi is responsible for translating the company’s vision to make restaurants prosperous globally.