Startups to Scaleups: Why Corporate Culture is so Important

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The Importance of Corporate Culture

‍To ensure your startup company becomes one of the many scaleups, it is important to figure out the culture of your startup, and most importantly, maintain its essence when growing and expanding. “Without a great culture, retention will become an issue and building a recruiting funnel will become painfully difficult.

Colin Angle, CEO of iRobot said, “Culture is the secret ingredient to scaling up a company.” He’s right.

Entrepreneurs are constantly pulled in many directions. This is no excuse for startups to forget about corporate culture when scaling up though. Scaleups are able to manage the hectic schedules, while maintaining a consistent corporate culture. The ‘what’ of a good culture within startup companies include the values and principles, whereas the ‘how’ of corporate culture refers to the people within the business and how they interact with each other on every level.

65% of 18-to-34-year-olds are likely to place culture above salary; that’s higher than any other age demographic surveyed. (via Forbes)

Maintaining corporate culture is very difficult even for large companies such as Google, Apple and Amazon. It takes a lot of commitment from startup founders and their immediate team to model and maintain culture in the workplace, especially when it is growing. Because of this, startups should make a conscious effort to continually focus and protect their culture.

A successful startup’s DNA is essentially their corporate culture (company culture). This influences talent acquisition, human resource management and retention in your startup. Here are some of the most challenging aspects of scaling up your startup, and what you need to look out for within your teams when doing so.

Right People, at The Right Place, at The Right Time

It’s not easy finding the right person, no matter the size of your business. It doesn’t help your startup if you bring in somebody who isn’t suitable for the role, but most importantly, who doesn’t match your company values, as this can cost your startup the resources it is just building up.
Quick tip: it would be valuable for you as a startup founder to be involved in every step of the hiring process for every position until you reach a good number of individuals in your team. Have core value interviewers: these are culture carriers embodying the company culture, trained to take care of a part of the hiring process.

Ask your investors for help! Part of their value proposition should be helping you with hirings and all things affecting your startup environment.

Break the Ice Between Old and New Recruits in Your Startup Environment

Don’t let there be friction between your established team and new recruits. Startups are usually keen to hire risk-taking and friendly employees who agree to join the company even if it will potentially die out soon. This ideally will not last forever, and will require your startup to hire more senior talent as the company is scaling up. For your startup to evolve into one of the many scaleups, the new guard and old guard must co-exist in a growing environment.

Related: How to Get Seed Funding for a Startup

Early in the lifetime of companies when they lack resources, have no reputation/sexiness and no traction whatsoever, startups typically hire risk-taking/friendly employees who will join regardless of the company potentially dying in a few months. These profiles tend to be generalists, but at some point the needs of the company change and you need more senior and specialized talent. Your older employees will feel a loss of power and motivation when more specialized talent join your company and that is not productive for your startup. This can ultimately lead to early employees leaving, which is a big pain since these individuals embody the company culture and this is detrimental for new profiles onboarding.

Quick tip: Your early commitment will always be praised, but keep expectations low as this does not have to be a commitment, like marriage. Set expectations and reward early employees but make sure they understand the company will need top (and more senior) performers as the time passes by.

Weak Company Core Values in Your Startup

Don’t wait too long to define the vision, mission and values of your startup. Set some principles to make sure people who join your company know what you expect of your team.
Foster autonomy via team alignment and company values. You have brilliant individuals around you, let them fly as long as they comply with the company culture and startup environment.
The more people that join your team, the higher the dilution of the company culture.

As part of your startup life, your first few hiring’s are always committed and are usually happy to work long hours- so, when you start hiring additional people, you will face a drop in performance from your existing employers, and this changes the company culture, which is not good when you’re scaling up.

To all successful startups, startup culture is important and has rightfully received a lot of attention lately. Your startup should constantly find ways to improve the overall experience in scaling up without sacrificing your corporate culture. By defining your startup culture and startup culture value, you will ensure efficient operations and make a more valuable contribution towards your vision and mission among scaleups.


Amit Khanna

Amit Khanna, 7startup Founder


Amit has 18 years of experience in the industry and an MBA. He supports entrepreneurs with every aspect of their business including concept and product development, investor presentations, and fundraising. Amit & 7startup assist startups in the pre due-diligence process and help connect them to our vast network of investors. Reach out to us today and see if we’re a fit!

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