Most companies let culture unfurl organically without giving much forethought or guidance to the process, but it’s risky to leave that aspect of company development to fate. There are other areas where freedom to explore and fail is healthy and micromanaging would be stifling, but company culture is something that founders and managers would be wise to pay attention to and be proactive about.
Those companies that ask questions about company culture and values often do not do so until after initial success. What they don’t realize is that by the time a company has found its financial footing, a company culture has already developed—even if it’s implicit. Companies realize this too late, and then they hire a PR representative to come in, observe the company and its structure, and crack the company’s culture code. But these are people from the outside, who weren’t present from the outset. They usually develop a generic manifesto of vague slogans about highly satisfied customers and high quality products that fail to resonate.
This is to be expected when slogans are artificially grafted by fiat from the top. It’s difficult to alter company ethos after the fact. Get ahead of the process and guide it. This involves collaborating early on with your founding team and determining what is most important, what you want the company to embody and deliver. These conversations will create and crystallize a picture of company life, an informal blueprint to remind and reorient.
It is crucial that the founders believe the company’s slogans. Employees detect bull crap from their superiors, so you better be genuine about what you say and write, especially when it comes to company values. Being on board with values improves the chances that a company will attract people with similar goals and ideals.