You get together with a few friends. You come up with an idea. You build the first version. You get users. You get your first investors. You make your first hires.
Then everything changes.
Suddenly you’re not just a group of friends, you are a team. Teams have structure and culture. You might think that ‘structure’ sounds like legacy company thinking - but even if you opt for a structure like Holacracy that removes many management layers, it’s still a structure. The same can be said for culture. Your company has (and will continue to have) a culture, even if you haven’t been deliberate about shaping it.
While growth solves many things, a broken culture is not one of them.
The transition from being a group of co-founders to a company with employees can be complex. Managing this transition is a critical step for startup founders who aspire to build companies that endure. Leading a productive team and forming a positive culture from day one have big returns if growth and expansion continue. Practicing and developing these skills during the process of hiring your first employee is a powerful way to get started.
The only constant is change.
A powerful first step is to develop an appreciation for what happens as your team grows.
There will be someone new in the room and the dynamic will change. You have to make your company a room they want to enter and stay in. Developing the communication and culture skills in your company is a process and takes time.
However, a great way to start is by having a few simple and powerful conversations at key milestones during this process…
Schedule time outside of normal meetings (like standup) for these conversations. Present the questions below to the group and allow everyone time to contribute to the discussion. Summarize the points raised and present the answer back to the group. Does everyone agree? If so, great - move on to the next question. If not, keep discussing. It’s critical that everyone both feels heard and you are able to make a collective agreement on these issues. A situation, where one founder sees the structure and culture of the company differently from others is extremely undesirable.
When you decide to hire
- How will having a new colleague change our culture?
- Are the ways we communicate with each other accessible for someone new?
- If you were an outsider, would you want to join this team?
- What are the things we might need to consider changing about how we work together as we start hiring?
When you are about to start interviewing
- What questions are we going to ask the candidates that relate to culture?
- How will we describe our culture to candidates?
- What would be like our new team member to bring to our culture?
When you are close to closing a new hire
- What will be the companies structure when the new hire is in place?
- How are we going to make sure everyone is aware of this?
Having these 3 conversations will start to develop your team's ability to think critically about culture and how it will change as the company grows. Let me know in the comments how they go in your company and if you have any questions!