As owners of startups, the vision of the business and how it operates is a reflection of who we are.
If we are disorganised as individuals, the business will be disorganised.
If we struggle to manage our personal finances, chances are we will struggle to manage business finances.
Our startups are a reflection of us.
Our culture and how we do things becomes the culture and how our business operates.
In order to build an excellent business, we need to be excellent in our lives.
Every person, team, and organisation has a culture, a set of norms that governs how decisions are made.
Since the quality of our execution is a by-product of our decisions, our culture becomes our strategy in the long run.
“This is how we do things here” becomes “this is what people like us do.”
There are two ways we shape the culture of our own self, of our teams, and organizations every day:
- People: The people we decide to hire, fire, or promote [whether via titles or via praise] are the single biggest lever we have to shape culture. While this appears to apply only to organizations and teams, the same holds true in our life. The people we choose to spend time with and, more importantly, the people we choose not to spend time with shape our personal culture. We are who we hang around with.
- Systems/Processes: The systems/processes we create do two things at once. First, they guide and incentivice certain kinds of behavior. And, second, when done well, they provide transparency into how decisions are made. A great resource planning process, for example, clearly lays out the decision criteria. In our personal life, habits are examples of the systems we create to guide behavior and help us make better decisions consistently.
One of the rare questions asked when people join organisations/startup is: What is the culture of that organisation/startup that I’m joining?
Another question that is rarely asked by founders of startups is: What culture do I want to set in the business?
A culture of starting meetings on time, of excellence, of doing the right things in the face of temptation to cut corners, of going the extra mile, of doing work that matters.
While this is a very important question, I think it is also important to remember that cultures are not set in stone. Instead, like wet clay, they can be shaped.
And, as we make daily decisions [whether consciously or unconsciously] on people and processes, we play our part in shaping it everyday.
You want build an excellent organisation? Build a culture that encourages excellence.
Culture eats strategy for breakfast, lunch and supper.
You set the culture and the rest follow.
When the dust settles, the excitement wears off, and sanity prevails, what is left visible is: How we do things around here.