Company culture

images-1Company culture is extremely important.  It sets the tone for the entire organization.  It comes from the top.  That culture creates a vibe inside the company.  If you spend one day going from company to company that was in the same vertical you would know that each culture has a different culture the second you walk in the door.  You can just feel it.

For people looking to work at companies you want to walk in and feel as if these are your people. Going to work everyday in a culture that doesn’t agree with you is a loss for everyone.

Acquisitions or mergers of companies can be positive outcomes for a multitude of reasons but the the merging of cultures is always tough.  When Vox bought Curbed Media it was such a great outcome because the cultures were similar and so not only did Vox take over solid media brands they also ended up with a terrific team and many continue to work there.  That is usually not the outcome.  After the companies merge or get bought out, many peel out of there when their time is up particularly the founders.

Cultures change as companies grow too.  At the beginning your company might have lunch together every Friday but when the company grows to 30 and then 100 those activities are harder to keep going with the same type of outcome everyone gets from it.  The key to continuing that culture that has been the backbone of the companies success it becomes important to figure out how to get that culture to evolve just as the company grows and evolves.  Not easy but worthy.

Culture is as important as creating the right team.  The culture helps you create the right team.   It is like what came first the chicken or the egg.  Keeping that same culture forever is not that easy. I’d love to hear about companies experiences as they have sold or grown up and what the founder did to keep the culture on track.

Comments (Archived):

  1. Pranay Srinivasan

    We have tried to hire an exec team that reflects the culture and have deep passion for the business and a degree of connection with the founders. IMHO, thats what I did wrong in my previous companies and usually its the exec team / leadership that sets the tone for the culture and reinforces what the founder stands for, down the line and through the entire organization.Force fits that “tick the boxes” usually never work as exec teams as I’ve found out the hard way.Jeff Bezos has this team of employees called “bar raisers” who are Amazon thru and thru and conduct the critical round of interviews for incoming team members to test for culture fit.Usually if your culture is good, 2 bar raisers can corroborate a good culture fit.

    1. LE

      who are Amazon thru and thru and conduct the critical round of interviews for incoming team members to test for culture fitWell you can’t argue with Amazon’s success (as a single data point of course) but I wonder if the homogeneity has an obvious downside of having a bunch of people that all think the same way. That is not always good in business (or in relationships).

      1. Pranay Srinivasan

        Well, I dont think “culture” is synonymous with “personality”. A cultural fit may have a very different personality. But shared traits, shared values, shared goals and obsession for some of the same things – even though our personalities make our approaches more unique. Culture also is the reason people question thought processes without getting too embedded in “Kool Aid” thinking.

  2. JLM

    .Culture is one of those buzz word vogue terms which fails to consider the obvious — what do you think people did before the term was “invented”?They used to say things like “morale” or “esprit de corps” which are fair but don’t struggle to be perfect comparisons.Cultures evolve and, yes, they are INITIALLY set by the leaders at the top but they evolve until the healthiest cultures are driven and owned by the employees. Nobody in Special Forces — at the top — calls the troops and reminds them, “Yes, forgot to tell you but we are quite “special.” Got that? OK, carry on.”No, the teams make them special by their actions.A culture is not driven by the manner in which communicates — company wide get togethers — but rather by the substance which it communicates constantly in spoken, written, and subliminal messaging. If you look at a company’s policies, you get an idea of the seed from which the culture evolves.There is a very easy methodology with which to test culture. I have done this for years.http://themusingsofthebigre…I worked with several companies who were trying to find themselves. Turned out they weren’t lost. They just hadn’t gotten it documented. Like many things, experienced CEOs know how to do this intuitively. Here’s an entire series on how to understand, evaluate, modify, and operate company cultures.The challenge with cultures is exactly like other things — perception v desired outcome v reality. Those are 3 different things that can be the same thing if done well.Fourteen blog posts by a 33+ year CEO. Not perfect by any means but, at the very least, the words of someone who did it multiple times. It is not difficult but it does require a bit of thought.http://themusingsofthebigre…JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

      1. JLM

        .You are starting with the values proposition of the Vision, Mission, Strategy, Tactics, Objectives, VALUES, Culture continuum. It is exactly where cultures come from.Agreeing more with you than you do with yourself.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

        1. Pranay Srinivasan

          We’re still working thru a lot but the one thing we know as a core team is where our True North is and what kind of action or decision “feels wrong” inside the team. And people do not hesitate to call it out, have an argument, wade into a fistfight to defend their thoughts.

          1. JLM

            .If you would indulge me — it is more useful to focus on what “works” rather than what does not work.Why?Because cultures grow and teams get stronger when the behavior you want repeated is noted rather than the behavior you want to reject. When you focus on the “wrong” stuff, the team is still left with the big question — OK, THAT doesn’t work but what does?Sometimes, it is really just that easy.Whichever angels and behaviors we feed, recognize, reward — they are repeated. Repeat your victories, feed your victories, shun your failures.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

          2. Pranay Srinivasan

            Absolutely agree. We reinforce a lot of behavior across the company but knowing what “does not fit” makes it easy for us to reject incompatible candidates inside the company especially when interviewing, trial periods, temps, and outside stakeholders. Even the act of moving away from bad behavior / inconsistent behavior reinforces culture – We do positively reinforce good actions as well but even this is a great indicator of what really doesn’t work.

  3. pointsnfigures

    Here is an interesting academic study on the topic of mergers and cultures Slide deck—> https://www.chicagobooth.ed… Actual academic paper —>…I think that big corporate is going to have to get very good at integration. They are so overwhelmed by regulation and competition that most of them have found it difficult to keep pace with innovation. At least their balance sheets are healthy so they can afford to go shopping.