Start your company’s culture right
My friend Brad keeps starting television networks. He’s become great at it. Years ago—when he was launching MTV Canada—he taught me a way to quickly capture a company’s culture.
It’s called a brand filter.
Starting a company can be chaotic! There’s so much happening all at the same time, and once customers show up it’s even more hectic. So we start moving quickly. It’s easy to lose sight of the big picture.
Let’s stop for a minute and consider what we’re building here. What are our core values? What’s important to us? How we want to feel while we’re working? What experience do we want to deliver to our customer? How do we explain our brand to a marketing or PR agency?
How do we make sure that we’re on the same page with our co-founders?
And how do we make sure those all-important first hires fit our vibe?
In short, what is our company culture and how do we communicate it?
This is the magic of the brand filter, and it’s deceptively easy:
- Pick five words or short phrases that describe your company.
- Print this list out and stick it to the front of your computer.
- Check what you’re doing against this list every time you create a piece of collateral, hire someone, design a new product or service, etc.
Everything won’t match 100%, but you can quickly tell if you’re in the ballpark. And you can easily communicate your list to everyone else.
If you’re flying solo, please take a few minutes and do this yourself. Here’s my list:
- Practical: I want my suggestions to be immediately actionable. What can we do right now with what we already have?
- Always Adding Value: I want people to feel like they’re learning from every conversation, and I always do what I can for people for free.
- Collaborative: I don’t have all the answers and I’m always looking for ways to include other people in what I do.
- Reliable: I want people to know that I’m always there for them, especially when they’re asking for help.
- Flexible: Part of the reason I like consulting is the constant innovation and the flexible schedule. Let’s always be learning and optimizing.
My friend Rajan Chopra is starting a coaching business for successful executives (I use his services myself!) and he came up with “The Five I’s:” integrity, intellect, insights, ideas, and inspiration. They’re easy to remember and it sounds like a company I’d like to work with.
As an entrepreneur I’m trying to create an environment that I enjoy working in. I want to be careful that I’m not creating a prison for myself. I want to ensure that my startup retains its culture as it grows and more people get involved. The only way to achieve that is to set a goal and navigate towards it.
If you already have co-founders you can schedule an hour to build your brand filter together. Future decisions become much easier once you all agree.
I highly recommend doing this exercise before making that all-important first hire. A new person added to a small team has the ability to dramatically affect the culture, and with a brand filter you can clearly communicate your expectations.