I remember thinking about company culture just before we started PRESS. It was something that was heavily emphasised at business school but when it came to us actually starting the company, in the scramble of creation/survival it just wasn’t a priority; or at least not in the way it had been framed in the classroom.
In the madness of trying to build a company from the ground up - in bootstrap mood, the concept of ‘creating culture’ was not at the top of the priority list and just couldn’t be.
Looking back "company culture" really just becomes a passive output of the way you as a leader operate, manage and communicate to your team; and of course the type of people you hire.
The problem when hiring at pace with a lean, start-up business model is that often rather than specialists you really just want people who will turn their hand to anything. We weren't necessarily thinking of the appropriate culture fit. However in retrospect I think we were always operating on some implicit selection criteria that stood us in good stead; positive, high-energy, enthusiastic/yes-to-anything people.
It is only now that we have steadied the ship, been through many business strategy pivots and have had time to consider our 3-5 year growth plan that we can be more considerate about guiding principle and enshrine them in process and documentation
My three guiding principles:
1. No A**holes: This is pretty simple but important, no one is good enough at what they do to warrant keeping them if they have a negative effect on those around them... “A pointed elbows approach” and “Credit grabbing” are early warning signs. Recruiting people is hard to get right 100% of the time but we are very quick to address when people inside the business have a negative effect on the rest of the team. Collaboration and communication are central for us all to achieve success.
2. If people aren’t laughing, we are failing: This sounds trite but it's easy to get lost in the day to day and forget that everyone is going to spend a lot of time “at work” and whilst there’s a lot to do and strong opinions, ultimately we get to do a fun job to help customers live a healthier, happier life. Our work is meaningful but it's not life or death.
3. Remember this isn’t their life: It's very easy as a founder to lose sight of the fact that your team, whilst amazing, and committed to doing a great job, are not in this for life in the same way you are. It's important to remember that there is a difference and to make sure to focus on lifestyle, personal development and compensation that motivates and inspires the team. In the end most people should work to live not the other way round.
Overall, your business will not succeed if you have unhappy, miserable or fearful employees turning up to work on a Monday morning, life is too short. Not everyone will enjoy every day of every business they work for, but in general if kindness, empathy and open honest dialogue is at the core of the management style and the “culture”, you stand a good chance of keeping the best people and more importantly looking forward to Mondays.
Ed Foy, CEO