Creating company culture – why you should drive it intentionally

Company culture is perceived as a reflection of both the founder and the management, whether from an internal or external perspective. It is commonly regarded as a direct result of the values upheld by the founders. Imagine it as entering someone’s home; upon arrival, the decor, organization, hospitality, and house rules convey information about the homeowner. Therefore, it is crucial to deliberate on your company culture and devise a plan to shape its desired appearance and atmosphere. Just as you tidy up before guests arrive, it is essential to nurture your company culture as it represents the face of your company and your management approach.
What it looks like with a cofounder

Have you ever encountered a couple with stark individual differences? Their pre-cohabitation homes could have been complete opposites of each other. Perhaps one preferred a laid-back ambiance, adorned with movie posters and casting a “lived-in” feel, while the other maintained a neat and minimalist household, with a neutral colour scheme and a clean aesthetic. Often, when they start living together, one partner’s style and preferences dominate over the other. This can lead to conflicts and resentment, as the overshadowed partner may feel powerless and lacking autonomy in their own living space, almost like a guest in their own home. It can also result in the overshadowed partner feeling less responsible for home maintenance, as their ideals and sense of ownership toward the space are not aligned.

A similar situation can occur between cofounders who hold different ideas about company culture. One cofounder may be passionate about managing the culture, while the other is content to defer to their ideas, resulting in a company that reflects the vision of only one cofounder rather than both. It is crucial for cofounders to build the company together, fostering a shared sense of responsibility and agency. What kind of company do you aspire to build? To successfully build a company with your cofounder, it is essential to determine, first and foremost, the type of company you desire. Effective communication of your vision, wants, and desires will be your greatest asset. What is your management style? And how do you intend to manifest that in your company culture?

In a situation where you and your potential cofounder have conflicting visions for your company culture, it is crucial to find a compromise that allows both parties to have a say. It is not advisable for one person to simply give in to the other’s vision, as this would create an imbalance in ownership and responsibility within the environment, potentially leading to long-term conflict and resentment.

To navigate this situation, open and honest communication is essential. Take the time to understand each other’s perspectives and underlying motivations for the desired company culture. Look for areas of overlap or shared values that can serve as a foundation for finding common ground.

Consider exploring hybrid approaches that incorporate elements from both visions. Is it possible to have designated areas within the office that cater to different preferences? Can certain days or times be designated for a more relaxed, open space, while other times maintain a formal environment? Find creative solutions that can accommodate the needs and preferences of both parties.

Remember, compromise is about finding a middle ground that allows each person to feel heard and valued. By actively involving both cofounders in shaping the company culture, you can foster a sense of shared ownership, responsibility, and satisfaction in creating an environment that reflects a combination of your visions.

There are certain aspects of company culture that may be challenging to compromise on, and it is important to be prepared for such situations. These aspects often stem from deeply-held individual beliefs or values that you or your cofounder are strongly attached to, making it difficult to find a middle ground.

For instance, if you strongly support certain causes and wish to display a flag representing them in the workplace, your cofounder may not share the same perspective. In these cases, it is vital to remember that the company belongs to both of you, and it is the shared vision and values that ultimately matter. It is not worth risking the alienation of your business partner over a single issue. If your cofounder is not enthusiastically on board, it should be considered a “No” and alternative solutions should be explored.

Keep open lines of communication with your cofounder and strive to find areas of agreement and compromise. Focus on the shared goals and values that brought you together as partners in the first place. By maintaining a respectful and collaborative approach, you can navigate these challenging aspects of company culture and find solutions that align with both your visions while preserving the strength of your partnership.

It is crucial to continually maintain company culture as the business expands. As you hire more employees and distribute management and responsibilities, their individual ideals will increasingly influence the overall space and culture. Cecilia, a former employee of a Doggy Daycare business, shared her experience of encountering conflicting company culture beliefs between the boss and the employees during an interview with The Cofounder’s Hub. She recounted, “When I was being on-boarded, I was given all these ‘rules’ by the senior employees that I thought were over-the-top and unfair. For example, I was told I couldn’t sit down until the evening time, or that I couldn’t take a proper lunch break. I was expected to walk around watching the dogs as I quickly ate a sandwich. Meanwhile, I saw most employees violate the attire policy I had just signed the day before. I didn’t know what to make of it; was management strict or flexible on these policies, and what were these unwritten rules? When it came down to it, I asked the owner of the company about the lunch breaks, and he was appalled that someone had told me that, and that of course I could take my lunch sitting down. It really brought to light how much senior employees created their own company culture within a pre-established company. Our boss was so easy-going and flexible, it made no sense.” Company culture is not a one-and-done deal, and you will have to maintain it intentionally as long as you run the show.

In conclusion, company culture plays a significant role in shaping the overall environment and success of a business. It reflects the values, beliefs, and ideals of the cofounders and management. When cofounders or employees have contrasting visions for the company culture, finding a compromise becomes essential to foster a harmonious working environment. Open communication, active listening, and a willingness to explore hybrid solutions can help bridge the gap between differing preferences. Ultimately, a strong company culture, built on shared values and effective communication, creates a positive and inclusive work environment. By continually nurturing and intentionally maintaining the company culture, cofounders can lay the foundation for long-term success, employee satisfaction, and a thriving business.

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