4 Common Blunders Companies Make When Creating Culture


Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

It’s no secret that every successful company needs a solid, identifiable corporate culture. Statistics show that 88% of job seekers believe a healthy work culture is essential for success, and the younger generations now prioritize “culture fit” above all else when job hunting. Unsurprisingly, a strong corporate culture that keeps employees engaged directly translates to as much as a 202% performance increase.

With such compelling data, it’s shocking how often startups fail in this regard. As a successful CEO and cofounder, here are four common mistakes I’ve seen and how to avoid them in your startup journey.

Related: Lack of Trust — What Does It Do to Your Company?

1. Not knowing when to transition from the “tribe” stage and into more structured processes

My company, Flowwow, is currently in that awkward “preteen” phase where we’re no longer a startup “tribe” but not yet a large corporation. This creates tension because those who have been around since the beginning often romanticize “the good old days” and resist implementing more structured processes.

Because this is often a challenging phase for brands, many cling to the “startup family” model of everyone doing everything for too long. This can hurt morale, motivation and long-term growth and heighten the risk of a brand stalling out at a critical stage. We tried to avoid this mistake by ensuring our overall mission was tightly aligned with the values shared by every person we hire.

We ensure everyone feels supported and heard, confirming that everyone understands our flexible and adaptable processes. We also help place each person into a team that best suits their skills and personality so they feel useful, fulfilled and engaged. Remember that the data shows 85% of employees feel disengaged, yet 69% say all they need to feel happier and engaged is acknowledgment and recognition.

2. Not allowing your culture to evolve with the brand

Some camps believe brands should stay consistent over time, but we think that evolution according to the market and trends is far better for overall longevity.

Remember: as your brand grows and matures, so should your corporate culture. As a founder, it’s your job to shift internal and external perceptions about your brand during these transitional times. Your core values should remain the same, but how you act on them makes the difference.

For instance, when Flowwow shifted from a flower service to a gifting marketplace model, the founder’s job was to not only reframe public messaging but ensure we were highlighting the things most important to us as a brand: openness, transparency and quality.

By making this our focus, we didn’t need to do anything specific to steer our culture; it naturally evolved from authentically shared values. These principles have remained steady over time, but our “value-driven” actions are more tangible: We provide resources like language learning, mental health assistance and medical insurance to show the team that our values are more than words.

Related: How to Lead With Transparency In Times of Uncertainty

3. Neglecting to establish top-down communication

I’ve heard of many startups that have failed or floundered because the founding team felt they needed to hide hardships or only tell employees what they felt was “necessary.” Often, this is done with good intentions. They mistakenly think it will demotivate or alarm employees to hear about a crisis or difficult road ahead. Don’t fall into this trap! You hired these people because you trust and believe in them, so prove it by being transparent and allowing them to support you and each other.

When management offers open communication lines, employees feel empowered to take responsibility, bring fresh ideas and make decisions in the brand’s best interests. HBR notes that good communication from senior leadership is a top driver for employee engagement.

4. Forgetting that the founder is the heart and soul of the brand

Founders often fall into the trap of playing Superman (or woman): They feel like they need to be involved in everything all the time, usually at the expense of their well-being. Initially, this might be necessary, but a founder’s top goal should be to find and cultivate a core team that can be trusted to take over most of the daily tasks.

A strong, compelling corporate culture needs an axis on which to turn, and that axis should be the founder. Instill your values into every person you hire, and then let all the things that made you want to hire them shine through. Use your influence and passion to improve, amplify and direct the company. By acting as your team’s safe, trusted harbor, you allow your corporate culture to blossom organically, resonating with both employees and customers.

It’s vital to avoid letting yourself burn out. You are an example for everyone, so it’s your job to pay attention to your mental well-being and continually work on understanding and managing your emotional impulses. Acknowledge your limits, act within them and let your team see that you’re human. This sets the foundation for a healthy, honest atmosphere.

Related: How Being Transparent Helps Scale Your Company

The future of work is now, so don’t let your culture lag behind

Corporate culture is essential to present and future organizational health and longevity. Watch factors like absenteeism, participation and even body language to get a complete picture of whether your brand’s atmosphere needs work. Remember, a healthy organization balances stability and growth, and lasting improvements must always be top-down.

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