Culture Powers Successful Startups

For startups, growth is fueled in different ways.

A good product buttressed by focused and effective marketing and sales is the most straightforward recipe for success. These are the key pillars needed by startups looking to establish a foothold and drive revenue.

But there is another essential element that has to be part of the mix: a committed team passionate about a startup’s vision, mission, and product.

In many respects, strong teams are the foundations that support everything. Strong teams keep a startup rumbling when everything is going well and handle challenges when problems arise.

Strong teams operate cohesively so that product development, sales, marketing, and customer support are intertwined and seamlessly work together so that a startup can run as efficiently as possible.

In concept, strong teams make a lot of sense, but how are they created in the real world?

During a startup’s early days, a team was fueled by a founder or founders focused on solving a problem or creating something new, innovative, or disruptive. They had enthusiasm, energy, and commitment.

The next group of employees is super-important. They need to be “crazies” who embrace a startup’s vision and have a willingness to climb on the bandwagon, even though the prospects are uncertain. These people have a tolerance for risk, feed an appetite for excitement, and are willing to do whatever it takes succeed.

As importantly, these employees help establish a corporate culture because they reflect a startup’s personality and ethos as it drives forward. They reflect what the leadership team is striving to create, which sets the tone for growth and scaling the business.

Another key consideration is making sure employees have the right attitude and approach that reflects the corporate culture. An employee with bad habits or a bad attitude is dangerous because he or she a weak link in the chain. I recently heard a startup executive suggest, “The worst habits of an organization will be magnified by the worst employees.”

If a startup can hire the “right” people, one of the challenges is making sure everyone is performing. It’s about being able to determine whether employees are effectively doing their jobs and meeting expectations.

Dax Dasilva, CEO and founder with Lightspeed, a point-of-sale software provider based in Montreal, says every employee should have a key performance indicator, or KPI, that holds people responsible to each other.

“Everyone understands their goals for the company, and if someone is not meeting their KPIs, they need to be held accountable. Holding people accountable is never a comfortable conversation when it is time to let a team member go, but it makes the conversation doable and easy to have because there was an understanding when they signed up.”

Building and nurturing strong teams is important, but it’s not always an easy proposition. In many respects, hiring is as much art as science. A company can carefully hire employees, but you can’t tell whether it will work out until they’re in the fold.

That said, strong teams can be develop when there is a corporate culture in which all employees believe in the vision and mission and, as importantly, recognize they have a responsibility to themselves, their coworkers, and the company to perform.

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