Company Culture · Engagement

Can you be too small to think seriously about your company's culture?

Dominic Head Chief Executive Officer & Founder at ABi

June 12th, 2015

I'm seeing a lot of articles at the moment by small businesses on the subject of building a specific 'culture' within their organisation. Given this is the area my business focuses on, I'd like to hear from other entrepreneurs on a) how you've thought about and shaped your company culture, b) why it is or is not important and/or c) whether you think a company can be too small to consider 'culture' important.


June 12th, 2015

Hello Dominic, My two cents is culture is everything. The minute you have one employee, you’re crafting a culture that will likely determine whether you succeed or fail. My advice is to think about the type of company you want to be and start laying the foundation now. As an example, I co-founded Shaw + Scott because I believed an agency did not have to be a non-stop mad house with no work/life balance. I wanted somewhere that was fun, supportive, flexible and nurturing. I want my team to be happy as happy employees mean happy clients. Could I offer everything I wanted to from day one? No, of course not, but over time we continue to evolve to become the company we initially envisioned ourselves to be. Five years later, we’ve grown from five to fifty with almost zero turnover. Why, because we foster a great culture that’s supportive, flexible and empowering. People want to work with us and do great work because we’re breaking the mold on what it means to be an agency and doing things are way. Anyway, when starting something new, there are no shortage of things to think about, but definitely don’t sell culture short. It can make all the difference in the world, especially when getting started. I hope this was helpful. Good luck! Best, Julian Julian S. Scott | Partner Shaw + Scott | | 604.396.2248 | Vancouver

Christophe Lassuyt co-founder at Moneytis, avoiding fees on cross-border money transfers, using Blockchain

June 14th, 2015

I just founded a startup with a friend, a the culture is the first thing we spoke about 4 years ago, just to be sure that we are on the same line

Our main points have been the following ones:
  • know why we come at work everyday, what is the real goal
  • make it fun and have a nice day
  • learn to learn and learn to teach

Chia Taing Entrepreneur at Your Global Venture

June 13th, 2015

Hi Dominic, congratulations for taking the opportunity to start something. I may be stating what has been said before me. As a solo-entrepreneur working on founding team, I face the same challenges - doing things fast, or doing things right, and potentially slowing progress.  Each time I work backwards from the big picture vision;

* the mission to accomplish,
* the desirable core values to achieve that mission,
* the culture encompassing those core values, guiding decision making.

The best time to start is at the beginning when you care enough to start a start-up shaping it for success.  I think the one thing you want to instill is a steadfast culture, while you remain nimble and flexible with strategies and tactics in starting your start-up.

Michael Barnathan Adaptable, efficient, and motivated

June 12th, 2015

Culture comes from the existing people in a company (especially you). Shaping it is largely a matter of hiring people who already fit the culture you want to build, and acting by that culture yourself. Changing it after the fact is much harder, and in my experience often involves turnover.

Dan Nicollet Sales & Client Success Director at SVDS - Data Science, Big Data, Data-Driven Business Transformation

June 14th, 2015

My two cents:
Of course not.  Never too small, unless you want to stay small.  Great cultures attract the right people and make management easier.  Just watch this if you want the basics:


Julie Bishop Social Recruiting | Social Media | Social Recruitment | Social Media Trainer | Social Media Speaker

June 14th, 2015

Culture can be positive or negative .. From day 1 you need to be creating a contagious company culture and when you start hiring, you hire for culture first. The culture is the heart, the personality of the company.. make sure both are good! 

Edward Upton Founder, LittleData. Digital Product Manager and Google Analytics expert

June 16th, 2015

Agreed with Michael that 'culture' in a small company ultimately comes down to the people you hire.  Yes, a set of agreed written goals is important, but how employees number 2, 3 and 4 behave sets the tone for how the rest of the team will interact with customers and each other.

Rob Stevenson Social Technology Engineer at Society3

June 14th, 2015

Great question,
I feel we have a great culture in our company but we never really talked about it. We have no plaque that states what our culture is. - it looks like we just live it. I guess it's more the way our boss runs things and how he deals with us and customers. The only thing we discuss once in a while are things like business ethics.

Britney Lowery Visionary at Triad Intrapreneur

June 15th, 2015

Absolutely not. Going into business should include the thought of "how can I change the game?". If not, why go into business? Many of those that choose to go into business, especially when the brand is not an inheritance, go into it with the consideration of how they saw it done inefficiencly. It is easy to succumb to the natural waves of whatever market you enter but it takes hefty skin to maintain your own integrity + not that of the mediocre. I think of it much like this: are you that parent that allows your child to wear a tutu with a polo or just creased khakis like the others?

Karen Leventhal

June 15th, 2015

I see it differently. Your culture starts with who you (and your partners) are. People talk about creating culture, but I don't think that happens until much later down the road, if it ever happens consciously at all.  Ive worked in many different types of organizations: people write mission statements, value statements, etc that may have nothing to do with how things really run. So much is unconscious.  Because culture begins by flowing from you (as the leader), I think the best thing to do is be yourself, work to be as conscious as you can be about any internal limitations, blinders or hang ups that you have, because those will likely leek out into the "culture". Then you attract people who naturally resonate with you and a culture is formed, somewhat organically, not always so intentionally.