The Startup Culture: Your Biggest Asset Is Not What You Think It Is


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Here’s a question for you: What’s your company’s most important asset? Is it the novel technology you created? Is it your firm hold on your market position? Is it your talented people?

Don’t think too hard, it’s not a trick question.

startup culture


Just kidding, it is. Even if you answered the talents of your workers, you’re only partially correct.

Research from the field of organizational behavior has shown that your culture, if it’s a high-performance culture, is your biggest competitive advantage. Technology grows old within a few years; your personal version of Moore’s law is always on your heels. In the especially volatile startup world, companies come and go, tastes flicker and change, and a good amount of luck is involved. No company who’s at the top of their market can expect to stay there for long without constantly bettering themselves as well, because even though it’s the absolute awesomeness of a company that attracts customers, it’s the gain in awesomeness year over year that keeps customers. So it can’t be anything product related at all, it seems.

But culture? It takes time to build, and effort to make it stay. But in the long term, culture is your biggest driver of success. Why?

It seems like this advice is common. It’s the people, it’s the talent, and it’s what they’re motivated to do. If you want to hear more about that, any organizational behavior book will do.

What they don’t mention is that people and their talent can only get you to the novel technology. It’s your culture that creates an edge between you and your competitor. A high-performance culture can’t be copied by competitors like technology. A high-performance culture is the ultimate driver of high ROI, more basic than your leads, content, or additions to your product. A high-performance culture is a competitive advantage. And the only requirement is time put into developing the culture and some good judgment while hiring.

It’s especially important in a company with, say, only enough people to fill a conference table, because each person’s actions counts that much more. Peter Thiel, famed supporter of young entrepreneurs, had just this line this advice for a startup he invested in that was about to scale: “Don’t f*** up the culture.” Scott Berkun argues that “each CEO is also a Chief Cultural Officer,” with the amount of influence over the feeling of a small company he or she has.

The startup culture is what permeates the life of the young company. Nurture the culture first, and the rest can follow.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Anqi Cong
Anqi Cong is a student at Carnegie Mellon University studying Business Administration with a minor in Computer Science. She is a content marketer at Insightpool, a company that allows brands to deliver "sincerity at scale" using its social engagement automation software. Anqi enjoys social media, coding up video games, writing, and dry humor.


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