If you’re a startup founder, then one of your most important tasks is creating and nurturing a strong culture.
Founders need to be proactive and intentional about leadership from day one. Your character, values and style will set the tone for the entire organization. More than anything else, leadership means setting an example with your words, actions and attitude.
I’ve seen this kind of leadership demonstrated by many companies. I’m an investor in one that really stands out — giveforward.com. The founders, Desiree Vargas Wrigley and Ethan Austin, live and breathe the business, and they care deeply about their customers. Their motto is “create unexpected joy,” and everyone in the company seems to truly live out that creed.
Their distinctive culture comes from the top, spreads throughout the entire organization, and shines through in everything the company does. If you don’t create unexpected joy, you can’t be a part of their company.
Building your startup’s culture means acting based on the values and priorities you want to promote. It’s a reflection of you, and while you can be conscious of it, you must try to be yourself, or your culture will not be genuine.
When making hiring decisions, it’s important to find people who will mesh with the culture you want to promote. That might mean passing on a candidate who is talented and highly qualified, but just not the right personality or mentality for your company’s culture. And in some cases, it even means firing a strong performer who is not culturally aligned.
A startup’s culture begins with the founders, who are responsible for setting the tone and direction for the company. Determine the tone, character and values you want your company to reflect before making the difficult decisions that will help you build and lead your team based on those criteria.
This post recently appeared on The Accelerators at the Wall Street Journal, where startup mentors discuss strategies and challenges of creating a new business.