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How to set your startup company culture for Success
One of the big advantages of being an entrepreneur and starting your company from scratch is that you get to set the culture, which is much easier than changing the culture of an existing business. The challenge is how to do it, and how to do it right. Why not learn what you can from companies like Google, who are leading the way with great growth and a great culture?
Jim Stengel, in “Grow: How Ideals Power Growth and Profit” chronicles a ten-year study of the world’s fifty best businesses, including Apple, and concludes that those who centered their businesses on a culture of improving people’s lives had a growth rate triple that of competitors in their categories.
Here are ten culture building principles, adapted for startups from this study, that I believe have the same potential for tripling the growth and survival potential of your entrepreneurial efforts:
- Communicate your dream and operationalize it. Mission statements tend to be narrow, business oriented statements such as “Be the leader in customer satisfaction.” Your dream and your company culture needs to be outward focused with a higher good, extending beyond the company’s financial interests.
- Be clear about what you stand for, inside and outside your company. Your personal priorities, values, and principles set the culture. The best way to be clear about them is to regularly engage team members, customers, and suppliers. People follow what you do, not what you say.
- Design your organization for what it needs to win. This includes the specific work your startup must do, the capabilities you need to build for a competitive advantage, and the career path for team members to bring this to life. “Traditional” marketing, sales, and product management organizations often lead to mediocrity.
- Get your team right and do it quickly. For startups, this means knowing where you need help and where you need helpers, and hiring carefully. For help, hire people who are smarter than you in the domain they know, while helpers give you arms and legs, but need you to dictate the tasks and make all the decisions. Quickly handle hiring mistakes.
- Champion innovation of all kinds. You must visibly champion a portfolio approach to innovation, emanating from dreams, not desperation. The portfolio should be much more than just product improvements, and should include better business models, customer service improvements, as well as continuous process improvements.
- Set your standards very high. You tell people every day what meets your standards when you agree or disagree with recommendations from your team. If you believe in your team, you set high standards and stick to them. A good team will step up to the challenge, and your customers will notice and respond to the culture of excellence.
- Train all the time. This is simply a mind-set shift. Every interaction every day is a training event, and you can capitalize on it or not. Training is coaching, rather than criticizing, to improve the outcome next time. Training all the time is a hallmark of great leaders and great companies.
- Do a few symbolic things to create excitement about what is important. Focus on one or two symbolic events a year, major actions that will be meaningful to your team and other stakeholders, and make them fun as well as directional. Pick your heroes carefully, both customers and team members.
- Think like a winner, act like a winner. Customers can sense how motivated a business’s people are just from seeing the product and how it’s presented to them. Customers want to buy into a winner, so make sure your people never apologize for price or quality, and never back away from an opportunity to delight a customer.
- Live your desired legacy. If you don’t know your ultimate goal, you will never get there. If you team doesn’t know the ultimate goal of your business, they can’t get it there either. Be like Steve Jobs, who lived a legacy and left a legacy at Apple, of radical or even magical products and experiences. He did it in one of the world’s largest companies.
The right business culture doesn’t require a cult atmosphere, but it does require a disdain for concepts like conventional wisdom and status quo. It does have to be built around ideals, employee permission to be creative, and something other than just making profit. How many of these principles do you practice in your startup?
Avoid these mistakes for collaboration success
Communication within a company used to be simple: You walked down the hallway to talk to a co-worker, picked up the phone or banged out an email. But those methods become less effective as companies grow and employees spread out around the country and the globe. In addition, the amount of information that workers must sift through has increased exponentially in many cases, while the time allotted to digest and formulate it has significantly decreased. For a growing number of organizations, the answer to those issues is implementing an enterprise collaboration software initiative.
But a collaboration system must work — the first time employees use it. Make a significant mistake when putting together an enterprise collaboration initiative and it can fail, despite your best intentions.
For example, when media giant Gannett Co. rolled out an enterprise social media system for its USA Today business, the deployment wasn’t very smooth. Susan Murphy, national account director at USA Today, said that although Gannett had successfully implemented a social media enterprise collaboration software initiative for the corporate parent, things didn’t work as well at USA Today. As a result, the system often isn’t used by workers there, she said.
“We were never really involved in the decision” to deploy the collaboration technology, Murphy said. And without an explanation of the system’s potential benefits, she added, employees never understood why or how they should use it.
The example that Murphy provides isn’t unusual, said T.J. Keitt, a senior analyst at Forrester Research Inc. in Cambridge, Mass. According to Keitt and other industry insiders, when companies decide to implement an enterprise collaboration initiative, they often make a handful of common mistakes:
Using technology to initiate collaboration. Before a system is put into place, a company needs to have a culture that encourages communication and collaboration. “The technology in and of itself doesn’t make anyone collaborative,” Keitt said.
Social business systems such as Alpine-iQ enable employees to have conversations, post project status updates, form groups, share documents and even establish networks with external partners. But these platforms are only the conduits for communication that should already be occurring. If it’s not, a shiny new tool won’t make it happen.
Implementing technology too soon. Companies might be tempted to buy a new “flavor of the month” technology, fearing that they’ll fall behind the competition if they don’t. But not all organizations are ready to roll out and use enterprise social media in an effective way.
According to Maturity Model for Enterprise Collaboration and Social Software, a report released last year by Stamford, Conn.-based Gartner, Inc., businesses might not be ready to take full advantage of the technology if they restrict communication, do not encourage enterprise collaboration across organizational lines or view social collaboration as more of a community undertaking than a business advantage. Instead of rushing out to buy software, companies should first examine their existing culture. If that culture does not already encourage collaboration, executives should explore strategies that could help transform it into one that does.
Not tying collaboration and social media to strategic business goals. Before deciding to use enterprise social media in a collaboration initiative, you need to know what business problems you’re trying to solve.
Without that clear understanding of how an enterprise collaboration platform will be aligned with the organization’s strategic goals at both the corporate and business-unit levels, it will not be viewed as a useful tool, he said.
Not getting executive or mid-level buy-in. Creating a corporate culture that embraces social collaboration starts at the top, according to both Keitt and Loveland. “Senior-level managers need to do more than give employees permission to use social business networking; they need to be active on it themselves,” Loveland said.
Mid-level managers are also essential to the success of a social collaboration initiative, Keitt said.
“They’re the ones who tactically carry out the visions of the executives,” he said. “They must be encouraging and leading by example.” If managers do not see the benefits of the initiative, all efforts could end up being blocked.
Making adoption mandatory. Collaboration can’t be ordered, Loveland said; if you tried, it wouldn’t work. Instead, he added, business leaders and IT and collaboration managers trying to instill a more collaborative culture in their companies need to show employees at all levels how such changes and new capabilities will benefit them and make their jobs easier.
Employees want to know what they stand to gain by taking the time to learn and use new technology. By aligning the potential benefits of an enterprise collaboration initiative with individual needs and objectives as well as corporate and departmental ones, the program has a better chance of resonating with each employee, Loveland said.
The benefits that enterprise social collaboration can provide are becoming increasingly clear, and as companies become more skilled at measuring their successes, it’s likely more organizations will want to implement such systems. By understanding potential pitfalls, IT and collaboration managers can avoid them and better determine if, when and how becoming a social enterprise can help their organizations achieve business objectives.
We at Alpine-iQ work with several world leading partners focused on making getting the adoption process right, which will enable your company to maximize success and transform your productivity.
We have been accepted onto the Microsoft BizSpark Program
We are delighted to be accepted to join Microsoft BizSpark program which provides technology, support, visibility, and community to promising startups and entrepreneurs at no charge. It also enables us benefits such as reduced cloud hosting costs, tons of free software which our team were using and paying for previously including Office, Development and CRM software.
What was even more pleasing, not only did the process only take a few days was that we were accepted even though our software seeks to disrupt the Microsoft SharePoint and Yammer applications and we stated that very clearly on the application.
Hope you are all well