Perhaps the biggest crisis that the pandemic has caused is creating irrevocable damage to our startup cultures. Who you are as a company defines your brand but a crisis defines the culture. Make no mistake, this culture in times of a crisis can make or break your brand. 

Many founders struggle with defining or implementing a culture at their startup as there is no theory about how to create the perfect culture. In fact, we’d go a step further to say that there can be no perfect culture. 

So how do you create a strong culture that is sustainable, authentic and helps survive your brand? 

Managing Startup Culture

This is important. Because the culture has to be sustainable. While scaling, it has to be consistent across all locations. And this can only happen when it is sustainable enough to last the test of time. And the culture has to be authentic. The biggest form of hypocrisy in the ecosystem is having a name-say culture. You wouldn’t like any snickers coming from your colleagues as you preach about your “transparency, values, and open-door policies''  

Over 15% of startups were forced to shut shops last year, understandably so, for varied reasons. However, a lot that did survive, give a lot of credit to their strong work culture. Many companies announced donation drives, and employees voluntarily taking pay cuts, or even working without pays (with the compensation offered later)

In times of uncertainty, such bets are risky. But apparently, it didn’t matter as much to the employees in such startups that had already established a good rapport with each other and strongly believed in the causes of their organization.

As a founder, there are multiple factors you’ll have to ponder in the early days to devise a good enough culture for your company. Factors such as:

  1. What motivates the team?

  2. What are people’s work habits?

  3. Is the team diverse?

  4. Does the team socialize?

  5. What kind of jokes do they indulge in?

  6. Power dynamics?

  7. Where do ideas come from?

  8. How do they collaborate? They solve a conflict? They plan?

So while building if the majority of founders see these parameters before trying to imbibe a culture, what sets the successful ones apart?

Trust. Responsibility.Openness.

Though there are no hard and fast rules, we’ve seen many lasting cultures being built on three tenets: trust, responsibility, openness. Oh, and culture sets early, very early.

A company’s culture is said to be the collective mindset of the people who are working there.

Now, does that mean you need to hire people who think similarly just to avoid internal conflicts? No, as that would promote a very homogenous crowd and diversity is always a good idea when building products that you’d like to scale across geographies in the future. So culture is largely set by people and is set pretty early on in the journey. 

Since culture vastly depends on the people you hire, as a founder, it may seem like there is not a lot that you can do. But inculcating values like trust, responsibility and openness in all your conversations may help massively. 

A shared bond where employees across all ranks trust each other and don't indulge in petty gossips. Every employee's willingness to take up more responsibilities or even be open to working in different departments, if need be. And frankness or being open enough to bring up red flags or troubling issues that can only be solved with joint effort. These three values hold true in every great corporate culture that we see. 

And the best part? These values have always worked like a charm when the company encounters any kind of crisis. 

This article has captured many such great startup cultures and the values that they were built upon.