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Building A Startup Culture Employees Rave About

Building A Startup Culture Employees Rave About

Most people think that startups are all – or mostly – about flexi timings, free snacks, beanbags, PlayStation, pizzas, beer, informal attire, and erratic working hours. The reality, however, is exactly that – and more. (See what we did there) But what most people get wrong is they postulate all these things as the startup culture itself. The culture of a startup is entirely different from what most people consider it to be. Flexi timings and informals do not define a startup culture. It’s the kind of people working there and the reason why they choose to choose that kind of culture is what startup culture is all about. So, in a way it’s okay to say that a startup culture creates itself.

To work in a startup is exciting. It’s young, filled with energy and brimming with innovative and wacky ideas that aim to make the world a better place (cliché). Problem is the founders are so deeply engrossed in developing new technology that sometimes they’re left with little or no time in establishing a climate for the right culture. Every startup has its own unique way of instilling its culture based on the values that the company deems important.

Here are few entrepreneurial and leadership advice on how to lay the foundation of a startup culture and what makes – and keeps – it effective.

Build Teams, Not Departments

Build a team that can harmoniously progress towards a common goal. Get them involved. Let them take complete ownership of their work. Don’t (not to be confused with May Be Don’t) create ‘Departments’. Setting up departments will allow inefficiencies and doubts to creep in leading to confusion, non-transparency and an inaccurate picture of another department. A startup is all about transparency, thought sharing and collaboration to understand and tackle complex challenges. Market-ing, Account-ing, Human Resource-ing, IT-ing, Startup. See! The words don’t even rhyme. How do you then expect them to fit into the startup culture.

Foster Team Balance

Focus on building balanced and cohesive teams that cover each other’s blind spots. When hiring someone, don’t focus entirely on the individual’s skills or experience. Analyze if the person is a good fit for the company in terms of his/ her personality and interests. Will the person be able to get along with others (or vice versa)? Complete synergy is critical for a startup’s success, at least in its initial stages. You can’t play an orchestra if the musicians don’t play their instruments in one accord.

Flat Hierarchy

“Companies without bosses.” Ever heard of them? They are exactly what they sound like: No bosses to pester you (if that’s what they do, we don’t know… LOL). Every startup company – and not just technology startups – should have a flat organizational structure, or better, kill off the hierarchy system. Employees should take ownership of their work, manage themselves, collaborate and provide valuable inputs to each other through peer management.
Contrary to general perception, a hierarchy-less arrangement focusing on company culture drives more productivity & motivation and promotes creativity & freedom of expressions. There’s no better way to kill a startup culture than creating a full-on hierarchical system.


Employees need to (and want to) know where the company is headed. If you want employees to take ownership of their roles, it’s imperative that you (the founders) clearly define the targets and aspirations being pursued and how it will impact/ benefit the employees and the company as a whole.

Break the Status Quo

Break the rules. Don’t restrict anyone within the confines of their team’s responsibilities. In a startup, everyone needs to wear multiple hats and solve problems quickly. If say a customer wants to talk to someone in the company, do not shrug it off or just wait for the concerned person to come and fetch the phone. Let anybody talk to your customers. Or better, make everybody talk to your customers.

Follow your heart and do something you love. Doesn’t matter if you have a degree in engineering or management, whether people want you to become a doctor or an engineer or something else. Forsake those taboos and create/ pursue what you want and do what satisfies you. Don’t just follow the latest trends. Identify your core competencies and values, know what you’re good at and stick to them.

There’s no manual to building a startup culture. It’s something the founders need to institute during the company’s inception and hire the right people in order to sustain it. Other than the world-changing, industry disrupting product/ service they plan to develop, culture is going to be one of the key factors in determining how effective the startup continues to be in the long run.

[This article is contributed by folks at Mr.Right]

Note: The views and opinions expressed are solely those of the author and does not necessarily reflect the views held by Inc42, its creators or employees. Inc42 is not responsible for the accuracy of any of the information supplied by guest bloggers.


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Inc42 Magazine has a lot of great guest authors, from techies, entrepreneurs to Silicon Valley CEO's, Angel's and many more. Interested in contributing? Mail us at [email protected]!

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