The Challenge of Redefining Culture as Your Startup Grows
At an early-stage, where there are a lot of moving parts and little processes in place, it can be difficult to create a healthy and engaging culture. In large part, this is because it's a moving target: As a startup grows, so do its needs and goals.
Kegan Schouwenburg is the co-founder and CEO of SOLS, a company that creates 3-D printed orthotic insoles. Since 2013, she's watched her company evolve from a handful of people to more than 60 employees, which has taught her some crucial lessons about effective leadership.
As a founder "of course you'll go to the ends of the earth for your company, because you believe in it wholeheartedly," says Schouwenburg. "But you can't have that expectation for other people …it's not their company."
That's why culture is so important -- and a good culture, Schouwenburg firmly believes, starts with good people. "But hiring amazing employees is no easy feat. In the beginning, not only did Schouwenburg not have a good grasp of the necessary skillset for the positions she was hiring for, she didn't know "the right terminology to use." Instead of freaking out she tried to treat the process as an education, tapping into her networks, facilitating introductions and figuring out the right questions to ask.
As a company grows, it's inevitable that pain points will emerge. When SOLS hit 20 employees, Schouwenburg had a moment of panic: "You realize you don't know what everyone is doing anymore….you have to trust that they're doing the right thing, and trust that you've presented them with the right vision."
But once she overcame that initial hurdle, more people meant more opportunity. For Schouwenburg, once SOLS reached 50 employees everything began falling into place. "We were able to have teams, which is great because people can challenge each other, they can learn from each other, and they can inspire each other." That's when "we started thinking about the notion of culture in a real way."
To learn what that mean for SOLS, check out the video above.