How to Create a Startup Culture That Fits Your Goals

Company culture ain’t what it used to be. The world of the man in the gray flannel suit has gone the way of the dodo bird. Even such traditionally conservative environments as finance have loosened their ties and got casual on more than just Friday. That isn’t to say that there’s no culture. Put any group of people together and a social setting will develop. Businesses are no different, except that they tend to set the tone from the top down.

Over the last two decades office culture has been dramatically rejiggered, driven almost exclusively by the rise of startup culture, especially in the tech sector. You know the joke, super-chill bros playing foosball, afternoon yoga and mediation classes under the skateboard ramp, pets sleeping beneath the standing desk, etc.

Startup culture is more than a punchline, though; it’s a way to balance work and life. As millennials continue to enter the job market and define a new era in professionalism, their needs are being addressed by the organizations that are recruiting them. Whether that’s by offering modern work tools, flexible work hours or fun activities.

Shift in Priorities for Employees

A 2016 survey by Deloitte found that 16.8 percent of millennials choose where they want to work based on the company’s work-life balance. People in this age range are also seeking corporate cultures that respect different ways of working.

It’s not just millennials, but most workers when given a choice between higher pay or promotion would prefer more flexibility in their schedule, according to a study by LinkedIn. Are companies responding to this need expressed by their employees? Yes and no. Office culture, as noted, is in flux. However, many don’t see the change in their work environment. Work-life balance for some is just a catch phrase with no reality in their day-to-day work life.

There are ways to create a startup culture in your workplace to engage and retain employees that doesn’t clash with the goals of your company. Let’s look at how to create a startup culture to suit your goals, budget, location and customers.

How Is Startup Culture Defined?

Before making any changes, it’s key to be clear about how to define what startup culture is. It’s anything you want it to be, is the short answer. The startup defines what its culture will be because it’s better to have some control over it than not.

Startup culture, like any business culture, is made up of three essentials: core values, a mission and the talent strategy. It is also influenced by the company, its identity, growth strategy and relationships.

Startup Culture vs. Corporate Culture

Where startup culture differs from corporate culture is that it tends to value creative problem-solving, open communication and a flat hierarchy. Corporate culture is more likely a reflection of the company’s mission statement and their relationship with customer service and the product they produce.

However, startup culture is more based on the personalities and philosophy of the people who founded the business. There is also a greater emphasis on business agility or being flexible to shifts in the market and internal, as a start-up by definition is new and must survive to changes within and without it.

how to make a startup culture

How to Fit Startup Culture to Your Goals

But, as you know, startup culture has proven successful and is resonating outside its niche to influence business leaders at large, established organizations. This might be part of a trend, but there is a more substantial reality to attraction that goes beyond merely following the latest fad.

But what if your organization’s core values are different than the ones of the tech sector that developed the concept and executed what we know today as startup culture? There is a way to bring the benefits of startup culture to your company without it changing who you are as a business.

Know Your Mission

You can’t define the culture if you’re not clear on the mission. Company culture and the mission statement must work hand in glove. Startups often just jump right into the production. Their culture grows out of this dive-in-swim-later approach. But that might not be the right way for you to conduct a company, especially if you’ve been in business for a while and already have an idea of what that company culture is.

However, whether the business is new or established, the time spent thinking about clarifying its mission is never wasted. Not only must the mission be clear, but it must motivate. In a sense, it’s the engine driving everything in the firm.

This step is doubly important if you’re not a new but well-established company. You’ll likely have a mix of people who’ve been there from the beginning and new blood, all of whom will have differing views of the business and how it should be run. To empower them all, as in startup culture, which is all about the excitement of being on the vanguard of something great, the mission statement gets them all on the same page.

Related: 3 Must-Have Startup Project Management Tools

Feedback Is Important

Startup culture isn’t conservative. It doesn’t follow the old rules, especially the ones that adhere to hierarchy. There will be managers and teams and other vestiges of this type of top down management structure, depending on your organization, but even the most top-down culture can benefit from some cracks in this wall of command.

That doesn’t mean a free-for-all or a chaotic office, but it does require an open mind and an ear to what the people in the organization have to say. They’re on the front lines of business and their feedback is an asset no company should dismiss.

Startup culture is fed by the collaborative nature of everyone participating in the project. Feedback is encouraged and, while it might not always become law, it is respected. Again, the amount of feedback is up to what fits the strategic plan for your business. A framework can be developed, or a more casual approach can be taken. Either way, everyone wins: people feel valued and engaged and management gets fresh perspective and ideas.

Respect Employees

Respect your employees as if they were customers. You take direction from your customers; well, your employees can set the right course for the culture in the organization.

This speaks to the previous two pieces of advice. If your mission and core values align with your employees, and you respect their feedback, not just giving it lip service, you’ll have a culture of motivated and loyal employees.

Adjust Your Office Space

It’s not only soft skills, but the physical environment must be changed to create a startup culture. That doesn’t necessarily mean an open office plan or video games in the lounge, though it could. The workplace reflects the work done there, so a financial services firm is going to look different than a software developer’s office.

Related: 6 Office Layout Ideas for a Collaborative Work Environment

How can you create a space that is not only fitting for what you do, but enhances the work being done? Startup culture is about making the office an incubator that percolates with energy and facilitates the processes, such as collaboration. How much you change or don’t change that environment is up to you. It can not only echo the work you do but the goals and objectives you have.

Model from the Top

Finally, it’s all important to make sure everyone is on board. There cannot be islands in the office that are separated from the overall culture. That multiple-personality approach is going to lead to a fractured office culture. That division gets in the way of progress.

In order for the culture to be authentic it must be modeled from the top down, and the effort isn’t a one-time push, but a continuous reexamination and forward thrust towards achieving the goals of a company well-aligned with its business goals and office culture. This is a perfect time to lead by example.

However you approach applying a startup culture to your company, keeping it within the standards and objectives you hold as an organization, one thing is constant. No matter what direction you choose, you’re going to need a flexible tool that can deliver under any circumstance. is a cloud-based project management software that is apt in traditional or more agile environments. See how it can help achieve a startup culture of innovation by taking this free 30-day trial.

Related Posts

Deliver Your Projects
On Time and Under Budget

Start planning your projects.

Start 30-Day Free Trial