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Startup Journal: Creating Your Own Company Culture

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When you're a sapling business, you don't think about the company culture you're forming or the bonds you're building.

Sure the topic comes up, but it's pushed aside as more important things come up.

Things like, how are we going to sell this product? How will we be profitable? What's going to scale? And it's fascinating.

Company culture is the one thing you grow without ever trying. The one thing we did focus on was trying to get each other to leave our office with a smile every day. The work has been, of course, grueling and confusing and frustrating.

Creating Company Culture Takes Work

But if we could regroup at the end of each day, maybe we could encourage each other enough to keep going. That was our first attempt at intentionally creating company culture - staying positive to the point of forcing it.

We did a few TNOs (team night out), where some of us awkwardly went bowling or to play pool, stumbling across that ill-defined line of whether to talk about work or just hang out.

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We tried a reward system, too.

Depending on your role, some accomplishment or another would get you the chance to win a few extra bucks. To win, you had to sink a ping pong ball in a lone Solo cup of water.

That was fun!

Did it work? Eh...

We've tried a handful of things to create a company culture we'd want to be a part of, but none of them really took, or created any lasting stamp (that we could tell).

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What has left a mark is all of us working together in a small space and inevitably being forced to interact with each other constantly. That's where the bulk of our company culture has come from.

Not from operations or procedures or HR stunts, but from spending dozens of hours every week huddled together trying to achieve a common goal.

It's been interesting, too, to see how culture develops even when people aren't in the office.

Our CTO worked remotely for the first year. Sure he came in from time to time, but I don't believe I ever exchanged more than ten words with him in the first six months.

That's crazy, right? It still adds to the culture.

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You could argue that our company culture was built on trust and accountability. Even if we don't have eyes on each other, we know everyone's still working.

A similar thing has been going on since Foster moved to Tulsa (thankfully he's coming back soon). Our office lost a lot of energy when he took his vibrancy to that far away land! But that's still part of our culture.

I can't say whether our company culture is great or poor. I don't have any other startup environments to compare it to. Just a few corporate gigs. But I'm content with it.

It's something we've created for ourselves! And we didn't have to spend a ton of resources to do it.

Keep Calm and Text Friends

We've become friends outside of the office, too. We'll meet up in the evenings or on the weekends, because that's what friends do.

As a startup or entrepreneur, company culture is the one thing you'll create and grow whether you intend to or not. Is there a best way to do it?

I have no idea.

Larger corporations will hark on culture as a large pro of their organization, which is important since you're going to spend 1/3 of your life there!

What is good for each member of your team, and your company as a whole, is to form relationships with each other. 

If you can get along inside and outside the office, I can't imagine how that wouldn't make for a great company culture.

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