11 Ways to Cultivate a Winning Startup Culture

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Companies start small, nimble, and scrappy. Limited resources force them to find ways to get things done with what they have. They figure out what works, and grow like gangbusters.

Then they mature to a business with more people and resources, and often lose the entrepreneurial culture that helped them become a success. Then they wonder how to reclaim it, much like adults try to recapture their childlike spirit.

Here are 11 ways to get your winning startup culture back.

1. Spend time with entrepreneurs

Companies such as KPMG are planting some of their employees within co-working spaces. They want their team experience operating in an environment that is fast-paced and entrepreneurial by nature.

Software group Menlo Innovations offered desk space within their facility to entrepreneurs, in a co-working type arrangement. CEO Richard Sheridan explained the intangible benefits of doing this, “being around like-minded, energized entrepreneurs who bring in perspectives and ideas that wouldn’t occur naturally if it was just us.”

2. Empower your employees to take action

When your team has the autonomy to make decisions to help or improve a customer’s situation, it positions them to look for more opportunities to do so.

It helps them to start thinking of the company the way an entrepreneur does. The Ritz-Carlton does this to extend their legendary service to their customers.

“At the Ritz-Carlton, everyone has $2000/day per guest to make it right or delight, but the money is symbolic. No one is walking around with $2,000 in his or her pocket. However, from day one at your job, you’re encouraged and empowered to fix or improve a guest’s experiences, and you may spend up to $2,000 to do this.”

3. Spend time with your customers

A growing body of research shows that when you connect your team with your customers, your employees feel a greater sense of meaning in their work. Seeing how their work impacts someone’s life for the better, induces better performance.

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In addition, the more time they spend with your customers, the easier it will be for them to identify new products and services to address an unmet need.

4. Resist proxies

Processes are important to help you operate both efficiently and effectively. But when you rely too much on them, especially in areas where a more empathetic human touch is needed, then the procedures end up ruling you. No bueno.

Establish the systems you need to run your business. But leave some wiggle room in the processes you do have to incorporate the creativity, intuition, and heart your team brings to the table.

5. Make decisions quickly

This is one of the tenets that Amazon ascribes to that enables them to maintain their Day 1 startup culture. They make decisions when they have about 70 percent of the information.

According to Jeff Bezos, “if you wait for 90 percent, in most instances you’re probably being slow.”

Even with your best-laid plans, there are external forces impacting how you run your business.

Startups are nimble enough to look for and ride the wave of those coming trends as early adopters. Be on the lookout for them, and then experiment with ways to make them work for your business.

7. Make experimentation part of the culture

Failure fuels your success. Failures you encounter while experimenting with new ways to serve your customers give you important lessons to inform what works, what doesn’t, and how you need to adjust.

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If you don’t fail, you don’t learn. If you don’t learn, you don’t grow.

8. Foster creativity

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Your responsibility as a business is to innovate. To do that effectively, you’ve got to have a steady flow of ideas to test out as a means to add greater value.

But you don’t have to wait for those ideas to come. You can induce creativity throughout your company by following proven methods.

9. Encourage dissent

Bigger businesses often get caught up in a cycle of group think. Team members need to feel comfortable to speak up to express concerns and bring new ideas without feeling like they are committing career suicide.

Besides, research shows that conflict actually works to improve the quality of ideas a team is able to produce.

10. Hire a diverse team

Seek out people who look, think, and have experiences that are different than you. It’ll help you think through ideas, and prepare you to more effectively meet the needs of your diverse customer base.

11. Make your team the face of the company

Your people are your most passionate resource. And they are an often under leveraged resource in creating emotional connections with our customers. Give your team a sense of belonging and ownership to what they are doing, such writing the company blog, starring in videos, and other content you create.



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