Don’t worry that your kids don’t always listen to you, worry that they are always watching you.
— Robert Fulghum
Startups & founders have enough to worry about without adding culture to the mix. Or so it would seem. As Fulghum points out in his own inimitable style, culture is what is being built as you worry about execution, hiring or product market fit.
What most of us don’t realize is that we are actively, even if blindly building culture in our companies every waking moment. The trouble is when we do this without being mindful or engaged, we usually end up building a culture that we are surprised about as it invariably bites us in the rear.
Starting from the moment you step into the office, people see if you greet the security guard, whether you get your own cup of tea or put it away when done. Whether you text in meetings or worse yet when you answer the phone during a 1:1 meeting. Even if you answered yes, yes, yes and no & no, they see what you do or say when a senior team member flames another, or a team member screams at a vendor. When you are quiet about a white lie to a customer or don’t question why a payment is being withheld, you are communicating loudly and shaping culture – though not necessarily the way you want.
So culture in a startup is not an option – but what sort of culture you want is a choice you can make.