As a CEO who's still in the midst of learning how to preserve culture as my company grows, I'll be the first to admit I don't have all the answers. But there are a few useful things I've discovered so far during this journey.
The first bit of advice I'd give to other founders in a similar position is to be clear on what your cultural values are from the beginning. You must feel passionate about these values and truly in believe them. Your executives and early team members need to genuinely connect with them as well.
Once you've defined your cultural values, distill them into something memorable and easy to articulate. Then, embody these values within your organization on a daily basis.
This is easy to achieve when your team is small, but at some point, you'll hire too many people, and your time will become too overtaxed to communicate these values directly with every new employee. There are, however, a few tactical things you can do to ensure these cultural values continue to be passed down and fully lived out by your team:
Hire (and fire) for cultural fit. Yes, a person's job-related skills are important, but cultural fit is equally so. If you find someone who embodies your cultural values perfectly, hire them. If you hire someone who doesn't end up meshing with your culture, let them go. Otherwise, you run the risk of diluting your values or compromising them altogether.
When people don't live up to the company's values, it's essential that peers address the situation and work to rectify it. This type of communication is really the only way to keep your culture alive.
In a small organization, transparency comes easily: you all work closely together, your structure is extremely flat, and every culture issue gets dealt with on a peer-to-peer level. As your organization grows and the team structure starts to take on more dimensions, factions start to form, and people begin to rely on their managers communicating issues to other team managers, who then translate to their team members. This whole process is rife with issues.
My belief is that good culture lies in healthy conflicts, and it plays itself out in these day-to-day interactions among peers. As in families, healthy confrontation and direct discussion is beneficial to everyone involved, as long as it's done with respect and trust.
Tell your culture story early, and tell it often. Empower your employees to live out your values and to be honest enough to call others out when they fall short of the ideals you've collectively invested in.
Simon Berg leads Ceros, the interactive content marketing platform, with an innate curiosity about the world and how everything works. With Ceros he has combined his passion for art and technology by building a platform that leverages technology to create digital works of art that fundamentally change how brands communicate and relate to their customers.