How do you define the culture of a company or organization? Most anthropologists—particularly social anthropologists, who focus on the study of culture (both modern and extinct)—agree that culture is a “shared set of (implicit and explicit) values, ideas, concepts, and rules of behavior that allow a social group to function and perpetuate itself (International Journal for Quality in Health Care).”
At the same time, most people in the startup community would agree that startups have a unique culture.
In its most simplistic form culture if often thought of in terms of employee perks; equity, ping pong, comfy beanbags and hammocks, beer on tap, endless coffee refills, hackathons, free Apple products, Fitbit’s, team retreats and flextime. All of these things are what, some say, makes startups “cool.”
In the early days, these types of employee perks also helped to compensate for lower pay rates, increased risk and more responsibilities. The problem is; none of those things constitute a company culture.
In reality, these are only perks.
What is Company Culture?
For an anthropologist, ping pong and beer would only be a footnote in any serious study of startup culture. These are purchased extensions of the shared values, ideas and concepts that create a company culture.
We don’t dislike perks. We like them as much as the next selfie-taking, ping pong playing, beer-drinking startup, but we know that’s not what our culture is all about.
Companies like Facebook, Virgin Group, Starbucks, Zappos, South West Airlines, Whole Foods and Nordstrom are often cited as examples, having “vibrant company cultures.” A vibrant culture is the result of shared ideas, concepts, and rules of behavior that are reflected externally, as brand values, across customer service, social media and marketing messages.
Everything, from how your staff treats customers to the tone of an email marketing campaign is underwritten with a strong and unique culture.
“Creating a strong company culture should be the goal of every startup: a robust set of values, ideas, and behaviors that your team can buy into and customers can experience with every interaction.”
Creating a strong company culture should be the goal of every startup: a robust set of values, ideas, and behaviors that your team can buy into and customers can experience with every interaction.
Many of us, myself included, have worked jobs where we haven’t been a good fit for the culture, or the company had a bad company culture to begin with. For many of us, this is a catalyst for starting our own business. Since we spend so much of our lives at work why not work somewhere awesome, with a happy staff and customers?
For instance, here at Wagepoint, an online payroll software company, the company was founded to create a culture the founder, Shrad Rao, wanted to work in rather than sell himself short in the corporate world.
Building Blocks of Company Culture
Culture isn’t an intangible, fluffy concept. Want to know the secret sauce behind building an awesome culture?