An Initiative of the City of Akron

Build a startup culture like your best friendships

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Culture is one of the most important aspects to creating a successful company. Brian Chesky, founder of Airbnb, said “A company’s culture is the foundation for future innovation. An entrepreneur’s job is to build the foundation.”

So what is culture? A Google search defines it as “the beliefs and behaviors that determine how a company's employees and management interact and handle outside business transactions.” That sounds absurd to me. I like to define culture as the founder’s vision personified.

Experienced entrepreneurs always explain that having a strong company culture can mean the difference between success and failure. Define it early, guide it, nurture it, and you will create a strong innovation environment for success; however, this may be easier said than done for fledging founders.

I recommend to our companies at The Bit Factory to build a culture that resembles close friends. Good friendships have similar key qualities: honesty, trust, transparency, and the ability to withstand and embrace constructive criticism. Like good friendships, good culture will help motivate, inspire, and drive the team to work harder and do the best they can. You will argue with employees, employees will argue with each other, but arguments promote growth and innovation – which ultimately require trust. Be clear about metrics, mission, and changes with the team – like your friends, you won’t get away with it. Finally, do not shy away from the bad, and be introspective in order to improve.

A good culture, as built by the founders of the company, aren’t words on paper. They aren’t plaques on a wall. They are actions and leadership. Guide the team, hire effectively, and treat your culture creation like your best friends.

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