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The start-up culture

Start-up image of small green shoot growing

The world of business is full of uncertainty and chaos, and the only way a start-up can change that is by innovating. Continuous innovation, challenging set norms and optimisation of available resources are what the world of start-ups is made up of. This community is always confident and optimistic about the future.

In a start-up culture, the most important word is ‘Team’. Although it may begin by one person’s dream it eventually boils down to team effort as the start-up takes shape. The vision of the founder is then shared by the whole team, mostly comprising of like-minded people with an enthusiastic approach towards it. The resultant creation can be so absolutely stunning that it shakes the foundations of hundred-year-old businesses, making them pause and contemplate. Thus, the start-up culture is made up of the bricks of fierce competition and intense efforts. There is definitely something very powerful about the whole affair, and big businesses would do well to learn a lesson or two from the new kid on the block.

There are certain things that make the start-up culture very unique and remarkably awe-inspiring:
1. First and foremost, the start-up community is driven by hunger. The hunger for success, brand recognition, market capture is huge and insatiable. And let’s be honest this is something that brought them on the start-up scenario in the first place. This hunger makes them burn their midnight lamps when the rest of the world slumbers. To be a market leader, to have as many customers as possible for their product or service, and to maximise their profit is something that a start-up culture begins with.

 

2. The customer is King! Although this is true for any kind of business, start-ups swear by this. In a fiercely competitive market where look-alike products and services are easily available, it is imperative that the entrepreneur not only lures the customers towards their products, but also retains them. Why should a customer choose you? Why should he come back unless you provide something that the competitor does not?

 

3. Start-ups work in a culture of innovation that can be created by anyone. Since start-ups work in teams, it is quite obvious that they have an open approach towards new ideas and innovations. Each team member is open to making suggestions and share ideas, and thus play a vital role in the building of the businesses, unlike traditional businesses.

 

4. It may so happen that you are able to enter a haloed, traditional business as an employee only when you have loads of experience under your belt. But a start-up functions quite differently. It may take up raw talent, polish it and then let it shine. The whole exercise is crucial also because not all start-ups begin with a cash surplus. Some begin with a shoestring budget, looking for employees that need not be paid a bomb as salary, and as such they generally end up with talented young people with a lot of fire in their belly.

 

5. Traditional businesses do not encourage a flat hierarchy and they usually abhor suggestions from the lower levels of hierarchy. This mindset in today’s world is very detrimental to the business and in the long run may result in employee dissatisfaction. Start-ups, on the other hand, have a flat structure and duly encourage their employees with an open mind.

 

6. Authenticity is the key word here. Those who are working in a start-up often look forward to a relaxed atmosphere, which is in stark contrast to the cold and clear cut office spaces of traditional offices. This is could be called the human approach to a workplace, as compared to the robotic approach as in a traditional setup. In a start-up culture, the employer is looking forward to his employees coming back to work every day, and hence the approach towards employee engagement is quite strategic.

 

7. Start-up culture’s best attribute is its immediate and immense flexibility towards decision making. The level of collaboration and co-operation is quite high, and at the same time, decision making is very fast paced as compared to the various levels of hierarchy that one would have to climb in a traditional setup.

 

8. Start-up culture has an ‘anything is possible’ approach towards every roadblock they face. Although working in a start-up may sometimes mean long hours, it may also come with a flexibility to make your own rules. The basic idea is to work smarter not longer. For this, it is essential that outdated corporate rules are thrown out of the window.

 

9. In a start-up one employee may have to wear many hats, but they are not complaining about it. The reason? The intimate connection with the process in which you have an ownership. In other words, the start-up environment promotes a culture which ensures that everyone involved in the team has a say in the decision-making. This culture of ownership creates the dedication and commitment which a traditional work atmosphere lacks. Most importantly employees believe that their contributions matter and that their suggestions can make a difference.

 

10. Learn from the competitors and collaborate. In order to survive in the mad world of business, you need to learn and learn at a rapid pace. Learning from each other, from outsiders, from competitors is all essentially woven in the fibre of a start-up. This is because they cannot afford to make the same mistakes especially when they are just starting. Learning from competitors also sometimes leads to collaboration on many fronts, and which could actually be advantageous for the business in the long run.

 

Now that we are aware of what goes into creating a start-up culture let’s delve a bit into the other facets of this culture:

  • Define your culture early on instead of waiting for your business to pick up the pace and then defining it. Mostly the workplace culture will be what you keep in the beginning, and sometimes people only learn the disadvantages of not clearly penning down their culture in the long run.
  • Start-ups are mirror images of their leaders. The top leadership who are involved in creating the company are the ones responsible for creating the image spectrum too. It is quite obvious that if the founder is conservative and cautious in their business deals then their company would have the same approach and similarly an aggressive leadership would spell more aggression. Whatever it is, it is imperative that the leadership sets an example with regards to the kind of culture they are portraying.
  • Start-ups tend to believe that they need a particular set of people who think alike, whereas the truth is every workplace needs diversity. For fresh perspective, as well as to create a sustainable work environment, it is very important to create a culture that helps to articulate the identity of individuals who are working irrespective of their ethnicity, gender, sex etc.
  • Some start-ups limit the definition of their culture to activities such as weekend parties, paintball matches or casual dressing. The truth is culture goes deeper and does not at all limit itself to such events. Culture is more than a plaque hung on the entrance of your office; it is the way of life for you at your office. It has to be practiced on a daily basis and in all transactions both with internal as well as external customers.
  • It is quite okay to lure talent with a lot of perks and benefits, but in the long run only a well-established culture would bind them to the company. The newly hired employee may not be super excited to continue working once the initial impressions die. It is most important to convey the expectations as well as look for a job fit at the hiring stage itself.

 

Although there are certain pitfalls that can be avoided if one treads carefully while creating a start-up culture, it is equally important to note that start-ups revolutionise the environment like no other. Unlike traditional organisational setups, start-ups sometimes concentrate on creating a flexible and relaxed atmosphere, which tends to raise the bar with respect to employee expectations from the workplace. This has forced many traditional set ups to rethink their employee engagement strategies and concentrate on talent retention.

In fact, the so-called ‘start-up culture’ is actually being emulated by traditional companies and there is an emphasis on creative problem solving, flat hierarchy and open communication like never before. New companies need to quickly adapt to various pressures, both internal as well as external, if they want to survive in this cut-throat environment and therefore they have business adaptability and agility as their core virtue. This not only helps to protect the start-ups in the beginning, but also manages the many challenges that it faces on a day to day basis.

 

If you are thinking about your own start-up business then you can learn how to make a success of it by studying for the Certificate in Business Start-up or the Diploma in Digital Entrepreneurship.

 

References
Birley, S. & Westhead, P., 1994. A taxonomy of business start-up reasons and their impact on firm growth and size. Journal of Business Venturing, 9(1), pp.7-31.

Blank, S., 2013. Why the Lean Start-up Changes Everything. Harvard Business Review, May.

Burns, P., 2010. Entrepreneurship and Small Business: Start-up, Growth, and Maturity. Palgrave Macmillan.

Hellman, T. & Puri, M., 2002. Venture Capital and the Professionalization of Start-up Firms: Empirical Evidence. The Journal of Finance, 57(1), pp.169-97.

Romanelli, E., 1989. Environments and Strategies of Organization Start-up: Effects on Early Survival. Administrative Science Quarterly, 34(3), pp.369-87.