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5 tips for building a startup culture your people will love.

Updated: Oct 7, 2021

‘A company’s culture is the foundation for future innovation. An entrepreneurs’ job is to build the foundation.’

Brian Chesky, Airbnb


Over half of the British workforce want to start their own business, and there’s plenty of things for them to consider before they start. Creating the right culture is one of them. Unfortunately, culture is not something you can buy; it’s more complicated than that. A company’s shared values, attitudes, goals and practices create its unique culture, and it’s essential to get it right. If a great culture can enhance employee motivation, engagement and reduce retention, imagine the impact of a negative culture. So how do you create the right culture for your startup? Firstly, remember that every company is different and no disrespect to you, but what works for Google or your startup competitor, may not work for your business.

Here are some top tips to consider.

1 – Embrace your youth

Startups are young, they’re developing, and they’re open to options. One of the great things about a startup is that the culture is new, and therefore you can shape it. You don’t need to rid the culture of old habits or bad practices, because you have a blank page. So, consider what’s important to you and create values that support your goals and attitude.

2 – Define your values

Values help create your startup’s identity, and they pave the way for the company’s beliefs and culture and influence hiring decisions and behaviour. Therefore, it’s essential to consider and define your company values before you start developing your business. Then, you can ensure they’re lived and breathed from within!

3 – Consider who joins

A candidate may tick many of your recruitment needs, but if they don’t buy into or support your startup values, they may not be a fit. And it goes both ways; some people may not consider you a cultural fit for them! So, when you hire, carry out a thorough evaluation (through interviews or a combination of assessments) to ensure that you can fairly assess their suitability and cultural fit.

4 – Speak to your people

It’s essential to build a culture of engagement, open communication and a culture where people aren’t afraid to speak up. Employees need to feel loved, and recent data showed that only a third of employees felt like they belonged in their company.

You can gain regular feedback from employees to gauge how happy they are and action results where necessary. While you’re at it, ensure each individual understands their role and how it fits into the wider business. And it may sound obvious, but don’t forget to update your people on company wins and news and praise individuals for a job well done.

5 – Lead by example

No pressure, but you have to be a role model for the culture you’re creating. Live and practice your values, speak to your people and take pride in your behaviour. If you’re rude, consistently late or dismissive to your team, then that’s the culture you’re encouraging. Remember that old classic, ‘walk the talk’? It goes a long way.

Culture isn’t formed overnight; it takes time to cultivate and mature, a bit like a fine wine. It’s up to you to be patient, nurture your culture, keep an eye on it and review it over time. Pulse surveys can give a good insight into the culture as can longer employee feedback surveys when the time is right. And finally, remember that your company values may change over time, so assess these to ensure they still fit as the business develops.

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