Start-up culture isn’t all table football and gimmicky extras, it’s a way to keep a company wedded to core ideologies
Back in 2013, WIRED identified the importance of start-up culture, noting that, whether founders realise it or not, “culture certainly has an impact on the operational side of the business”. Combine that with the positive impact said culture can have on staff, and it seems crucial that companies should strive to keep their start-up culture.
It’s easy to write off start-up culture if you don’t have a full understanding of just what it means. In fact, just mention start-up culture and you’ll probably have people imagining a Google-esque workspace full of foosball tables, or a Buzzfeed office filled with free snacks and complimentary lunches. Or, they conjure up the image perpetuated in this Telegraph story about the dangerous glamorisation of working for yourself.
And yet, start-up culture is actually about a creative, flexible approach to work, one which can be key in defining the core values and driving forces of a company early on. This is something that many successful start-ups have realised too and even the finance industry is trying (unsuccessfully) to muscle in on the positive influence and “coolness” of start-up culture, as Forbes reports.
But start-up culture can’t be manufactured, which is why it must be protected. It’s something which develops in companies driven by ambitious founders, so it stands to reason, then, that they are the ones who must work hard to foment and further their company’s start-up culture over time. They’re typically the ones with the most invested—financially and emotionally—in the company; they’re the ones whose core values have solidified along with their business; they’re the ones who have a vested interest in keeping the start-up culture because, ultimately, it’s good for business.
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That’s not to say that there’s one way and one way only of instilling company values and sticking to them. For example, Soho-based start-up buzzmove—an online comparison website for removal companies which utilises innovative video survey technology—is a flourishing company with a commitment to maintaining their start-up culture. They’re also part of an industry which typically neglects the influence of its carbon footprint, so rejecting this wasteful approach at all levels became one of their core culture concepts. That’s why, as well as gifting canvas tote bags and reusable cups to employees (instilling sustainability values internally), they also endeavoured to encourage removal companies to offset their carbon emission through planting trees. So far buzzmove have managed to plant over 200 trees in their Trees for Life grove, but are aiming much higher.
However, it’s also important to know when your start-up culture has gone toxic, as is the case with Uber and what Quartz refers to as their “cult of personality and entrenched “bro” culture”. Instead, focus on what Biz Stone, co-founder of Twitter, has been quoted as saying: “Startups have a unique ability to create a culture of compassion”. This is true; startups typically do have greater power to promote compassion, as well as maintain a true set of core values. In larger corporate companies, employees often lose their individual identity. Meanwhile, ‘unique’ corporate branding becomes more of a reflection of the brand consultancy firm rather than the internal company culture. However, start-ups are typically more authentically distinctive, as a cohesive brand that forms out of (rather than envelopes) each team member. However, one notable exception to this rule is surely Patagonia.
A massive company which has stayed true to its core values over the thirty plus years by using their business to inspire and implement solutions to the environmental crisis. They donate their time, services and at least 1% of their sales to hundreds of grassroots environmental groups all over the world who work to help reverse the tide. They also use recycled polyester in many of their clothes and only organic, rather than pesticide-intensive, cotton.
If you’re still not convinced of the need to build and promote start-up culture at all stages of your business’ development, let us refer you to this Entrepreneur post about building start-up culture for free. If it’s not costing you anything, there’s no harm in at least giving it a go is there?