How to maintain a start-up culture while growing your business

Published · 2 min read

It’s a common occurrence among rapidly growing businesses that once they become more established, they begin to lose sight of the values they lived by when they were a start-up.

In many cases, policies and procedures and stale top-down company value statements end up replacing the values that made the business a success in the first place.

Let’s explore some of the ways you can help maintain or recreate a start-up mentality in your growing business:

Focus on the company culture that exists amongst your people

An insightful way to view company culture is to consider it like an iceberg.

The 10 percent above the waterline includes things like your vision, value statement, policies, and procedures. While your real culture – how people behave and treat each other, and what’s tolerated and discouraged – is the 90 percent below water level.

Many leaders invest heavily in lofty vision statements and or comprehensive policies and procedures that attempt to create a company culture from the top down. However, in many cases, they ignore the culture that exists below the waterline.

Hire for the future

Ensure you’re hiring those with the attributes and values vital to the future success of your business.

These are people who may not have the most advanced skillsets on the market, yet they more than make up for it in their ambition, motivation, and potential.

Your Employee Value Proposition is an important tool to attract this kind of talent, especially for smaller companies lacking the funds of larger competitors.

Think about what you can offer that others can’t. Is it the bleeding-edge technology more established companies aren’t willing to take a risk on? Or maybe more flexibility, particularly with regards to benefits like vacation and maternity/paternity leave?

Keep your company policies simple

While they may not be a natural part of a start-up, company policies are very effective tools for guiding employee behavior.

Many growing companies will invest a lot of time creating restrictive and prescriptive policies and procedures, however as the organization changes, they quickly become outdated.

Keeping your policies and procedures simple not only makes them memorable, but also more flexible and appealing to people.

Write your policies for the majority, not the exceptions

When devising company policy, many organizations do so with the exceptions in mind, rather than the majority who embody the company’s values.

If you’ve recruited well, have a great culture, and your employees live by your company’s values, they won’t need policies to tell them what to do. There will always be a few who won’t behave ideally, but your policies won’t deal with them – they’re not a replacement for good management practices.

So try to keep your policies simple, treat people like mature adults, and deal with the exceptions on a one-on-one basis with great management practices.

Subscribe to the Sage Advice newsletter, and receive our latest advice direct to your inbox.

Leave a response