Seasoned entrepreneurs who’ve experienced the ups and downs of working at a startup know how critically important it is to create a culture that solidifies and connects the team. It’s what inspires people to do their best work.
When you’re fundraising, the quality of your team is an important consideration for investors. They want to make sure that the founder’s team can work well together and have the skills and experience to succeed in the marketplace. Here are three tips for shaping a culture that ensures your dream team is equipped to reach its goals—and won’t fall apart during times of crisis.
1. Build your culture during the initial growth phase
In the early days of growing your company, you’ll be so overwhelmed by the day-to-day operations that you’ll probably overlook things that are less tangible or urgent, like the culture you want for your company. The problem is, if you don’t figure it out while your company is still small, it will be very hard to reshape or reverse it later.
So early on (before you hit the 50 employees mark), think about what type of company you want to build. What are your core values? How do you want your team to approach their work? How are you going to inspire your team to collaborate and innovate?
You need to work actively and intentionally in the early stages to put your stamp on your company culture, and make sure you have 100% buy-in from your core group. If you can do that, then your culture will spread organically as you integrate new members into your team.
2. Keep cultural fit in mind when hiring
When you need new talent, it’s easy to focus on finding candidates that fit the job description and the specific skill sets required to get the job done. However, if you aren’t careful about cultural fit, you’ll be missing out on the most important part of building an enduring team.
This is where it’s critical to be clear about your company’s values and how you envision your team working together to solve problems. You should assess potential candidates by their skill level but you should also assess them by culture fit.
Keep diversity in mind. Don’t build a team composed only of people who look like you and come from the same background. You need a diverse team to build a balanced product that serves the needs of all of your customers.
3. Keep culture fit in mind when raising money
Don’t forget equity investors can play a big part in shaping and directing your company’s future. When you sign that term sheet, they instantly become part owners of your company and they may or may not have the same goal as you. It’s crucially important that you evaluate culture fit when it comes to choosing your investors. A management board that has significant differences and disagreements can create confusion, fear, and mistrust, lowering the productivity of your team.
Sometimes, leaving money on the table—or turning down a potential investor can be the healthiest choice for your company in the long term.
A successful startup team is like a tight-knit family.
Building at a startup isn’t just a job. It’s a lifestyle. It’s about building a team, a community, a family. It’s an intimate experience, an emotional roller coaster. You triumph together and you struggle together. You may not be able to choose your family but you can choose the people who will go through this experience together with you. Choose them wisely.