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Building a future-proof culture for your start-up

Views, 5 July 2017
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Building a future-proof culture for your start-up by Aileen O'Toole, Chief People Officer, Naspers

Nothing beats a start-up culture. Ask anyone who has founded a start-up or worked in one and they become misty-eyed as they remember the sense of purpose, the great teamwork and how much they enjoyed the hard work.

Building a strong culture is relatively easy in the early days when the team is small. However, as you grow your business it becomes harder to preserve. Here are a few tips to future-proof your culture as you grow:

  1. Live It: culture is not a poster on the wall or the preserve of your HR team. It’s created by everything you do and every people decision you make. Who you hire and promote, how you make performance and pay decisions, what you say and how you say it all matter. Remember, everyone’s watching.
  2. Hire for it: seek out people with an ownership mindset and be clear about your expectations on culture from the first conversation.
  3. Be explicit: call it out when you see things you don’t like, and give others permission to do the same.
  4. Be inclusive: while it’s fun in the short-term to run your business like your college dorm, it won’t be scalable. Think about the kind of people you will need to attract in the medium to long-term and ensure from the start that your culture will be compelling for them too. Bring people in that complement rather than replicate you. You can benefit from a lot of diversity when your culture binds you together.
  5. Define performance in terms of results and behaviours from the start: adopt a zero tolerance approach to brilliant a**holes.

The great thing about the early days is you don’t have to think about culture, it just happens. But by thinking a couple of steps ahead you can avoid painful re-sets later on.

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