Most start-ups and small businesses are focused on sales, growth, and customer acquisition. Company culture isn’t usually something that is top of mind for start-up entrepreneurs, but ironically, being a new company is the best time to build a culture that differentiates your brand from established competitors. Culture not only determines how happy, engaged, and productive your people will be, but also impacts a company’s ability to attract and hire quality talent – a key concern for start-ups. Otherwise current and prospective employees will look for better jobs in Delhi or jobs in Mumbai. Digest this - the failure rate of new ventures is around 50-70% during the first two years, for common reasons being poor team composition, management, and incompetence - all of which can be traced directly to culture.
Here are three ways start-ups and small organizations can create a differentiated culture:
#1 Align your brand and culture: When you are a new company, everything you do, including culture, should tie in to how your business operates. If speed and efficiency are your business’ hallmarks, that’s what your company culture should drill into every employee. Take for instance Amazon – renowned for an efficient one-click user experience and accelerated order delivery. The company’s internal culture and processes replicate the same efficiency, thanks to its two pizzas and no PowerPoint rule. In meetings, executives are urged not to invite more people than they can feed with two pizzas and switch to detailed memos instead of slide decks that provide cursory information.
#2 Invest in your employees and value them: Your employees are the most valuable asset when you are in a high-growth stage and retaining them should be your top priority. Besides creating two-way feedback loops, providing ongoing training, mentoring, and L&D opportunities, start-ups should also look at innovative ways to reward and recognize high performing employees. Bonus.ly for instance, is an engaging rewards and recognition platform where people can publicly recognize each other, and small bonuses add up to big, meaningful rewards. It works in two ways – by promoting peer recognition and collaboration and by customizing rewards.
#3 Create a unique brand story: The best brands are built on great stories and there’s nothing better than a good story to differentiate your brand and culture. To build a good brand story, identify your customers’ pain points, make them integral to your company mission, and then find points of differentiation from others offering the same products/services. Remember, once finalized, consistency is what helps brand stories translate into culture. You must tell the same story to your employees, customers, on social media, industry/recruitment events, ad campaigns, and even to prospective hires – until your brand becomes synonymous with the story.
Keep it simple
Building a differentiated product/service starts with building a differentiated culture. But the hardest part comes after that - when you have to sustain that brand and culture while simultaneously growing, innovating, and adding to the bottom line. Therefore, simplifying your culture is key to be able to stick to what you built as without it, internal and external stakeholders will stop believing in your products and promises.