How To Build Culture In A Startup Setting

How To Build Culture In A Startup Setting

Creating a startup is a long and challenging process. After first coming up with a business idea, you would need to make a business plan, secure funding, bring in partners to help run it, meet the legal requirements, and establish physical and online locations.

Even though completing these steps will clearly take a while and be stressful the entire time, it’s not even the hard part. Estimations suggest that the failure rate for startups is nearly 90 percent. There can be thousands of different reasons that a startup fails, such as simply running out of money, poor marketing techniques, an inferior product or service, or just plain bad luck.

One of the ways to give your startup the best chance for survival is to create an organizational culture that will draw in the best employee candidates to help operate your business.  

What Is Organizational Culture?

Organizational work cultures are the way that businesses or startups define the proper way to behave within the organization and includes a core system of principles, norms, beliefs, and shared values established by company leaders.

It’s not so different from the various types of cultures found in different nationalities or religious groups around the world. Leaders in those different societies will teach and enforce their various cultural beliefs and shun taboos to eliminate behavior that contradicts these beliefs.

Naturally, there will often be conflicts between cultures due to the fact that what may be acceptable to one culture might be repulsive to another. Organizational culture operates in a very similar fashion.

This is especially a problem when two or more companies attempt to merge together as cultures can often become dysfunctional when they share contradicting beliefs. Having a strong and positive organizational culture and empathy for new teammates doesn’t guarantee success in the fast-paced and often cutthroat modern world of business.

However, having an ineffective or toxic culture can absolutely be enough to prevent a business from succeeding and will often heavily contribute to its failure. To govern the hiring process, daily interactions, face-to-face interactions, and other types of situations encountered in the work environment, it's important to develop a strongdevelop strong company culture.

How To Build A Positive Work Culture

Workplace culture is composed of core values, fundamental principles, and business philosophies. Despite several companies sharing similar traits for each of these pieces, there are no two organizational cultures that are the same. In order for you to define your organization's culture, you have to answer some fairly difficult questions.

It will require a substantial amount of thoughtful planning, self-reflection, employee engagement, and understanding of your goals. Keep in mind that building cultures does not happen overnight and aand certain a positive company culture often evolves over time. National and religious cultures have taken thousands of years to become what they are in their current states.

Your startup won’t have that kind of time to perfect thatperfect the that kind of culture, of course, but the point is to take the time that you need to truthfully and carefully answer these questions. It could ultimately be the difference between being a successful company with healthy employees or another bygone statistic of failure.


Without a mission or purpose, your startup will simply exist and wander aimlessly. You will need to establish your mission statement and focus on achieving this mission. This will be one of the unique aspects of your business that separates you from your competition.

What makes your startup different from the others? How are you going to benefit your consumers? What will be your overall impact on society at large? Before you ever get started with building your startup, you should answer these questions.

Your mission statement should clearly define who you are, how you conduct business, and why you are important. This mission statement will form the backbone of your startup and should become the guiding path that you follow during every transaction of every day that you are in business.


Answering this question will help you to create a set of rules and expected behaviors for your corporate culture. How do you want your employees to behave when they perform their tasks? How are they supposed to interact with customers when helping them? What kind of employee experience would you like your employees to have? How can you create a positive impact and a great company culture?

Instead of a cynical and lazy answer like “the customer is always right,” be more realistic and detailed in your answer. A culture where the customer is always right does not always contribute to a business' success. These core values will essentially become the book of laws for your culture.

You have already set your path with your mission statement, but the values will answer questions regarding how you aim to walk that path. Use previous examples from your own life to help find an answer here.

What experiences have you had as an employee or customer that you wish would have transpired differently? The more detailed that your values are, the easier it will be for future employees to follow them.


The principles of successful companies and your startup operate like a list of daily goals that will ultimately help you to achieve your mission. It may take decades to achieve the mission you have created for your startup, but your principles should be achieved every day.

Arguably the best principle of all time is “the Golden Rule,” which suggests you should treat others with the same courtesy and respect that you would like to be treated. While this is a good starting point for creating principles, you will need to go a little bit deeper if you want to create a positive culture for your startup.

These principles should almost become like a motto for your startup. You will have to decide which matters more in various situations. Is it more important to meet a deadline with errors or pass a deadline and surpass quality expectations? Is working as an individual more important than collaborating as a team?

Is the goal of customer service to genuinely help the customer, or is it to push a sale? It can take some time to come up with the answers for these scenarios and all the other ones that you think of, but they are important building-off points for your startup.

These questions will either be answered by you now or by your employees later. Help your employees understand what’s important by creating these principles now so that they can know what to do at the moment.


Unless you have previous background in running a business, the answers to this question might take some time to discover. Business philosophies are the ways in which you choose to operate your startup.

An example would be whether you prefer to promote from within the company or hire someone from the outside? Another is how strict are you with spending? Will you give your employees bonuses or create an extravagant break room for them?

Basically, this will boil down to the numbers involved with your business. For some startups, the philosophy is simply to make as much money as possible. When a culture is too heavily focused on profit margins and numbers, it becomes easy to forget about the employees that work hard every day to achieve them and the customers who spend their money on your product.

Establishing your business philosophies early can help remind you of the most important things to a business.

The Takeaway

There are no limits to the culture that you can create for your startup besides your own imagination. The product or service offered by your startup, business plan, funding, and everything else is highly important to your success, but building a positive organizational culture is important.

Startups can quickly fail if they have a toxic culture, even if they have an excellent product, business plan, and high levels of financing. A positive organizational culture will bring in the best employees possible to help you achieve your startup's mission.    


How Many Startups Fail and Why?.

Understanding and Developing Organizational Culture

What is Organizational Culture? - Definition & Characteristics - Video & Lesson Transcript

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