Culture and How It Changes with Growth

I wrote this because I Want Everyone To Succeed in our company as the culture naturally changes so in today’s post we’ll explore it.

Why is culture important? Because it shapes us, it shapes our values and therefore our actions. If people don’t understand our culture they’ll constantly be wondering why we do what we do, some things such as setting quarterly goals will seem confusing to them. On the other hand, if we understand the culture and build a great one such as one of caring then it can impact the whole world around us and everyone can be in a much better place. 

Note: The bigger we grow the more these seeds of cultural practices will, this is why it’s critically important to get more of them right earlier than later.

So the question I’m asking on my 52nd blog post about business is, how do you create a great culture? This one is harder than “practice what you preach”. Although, that is a key part of it, since the bigger you get, the less people see what you practice on a day to day basis. They get to practice what they see from their neighbors, so on and so forth. 

I’m sure I’ll continuously ask this, one book let alone a blog post is definitely not enough to nail the answer, but perhaps I can get some of my thoughts down here and ask good questions.

This whole conversation was actually inspired after I’ve noticed that our original hires have never read the company value books, but they do practice our values. 

At the same time the new members have read the value books, but are having a harder time practicing our values…and we need to figure out how to measure that.

Lastly, one of our team members claimed to me that they were the “model” of our company values…now that was an obvious joke…however it did make me think…who is? 

My answer may surprise you, but I’m thinking they’re almost impossible to follow on a weekly basis and may be more like ideals…however if we figure out how to nail these maybe we’ll be good?

As a reminder for those who don’t know:

Our values, can you name them off the top of your head, are:

  1. Caring – Most important – Genuinely helping others – treating others like you’d want to be treated. 
  2. Honesty – Being truthful
  3. Vulnerability – Bringing your whole self even if it hurts 
  4. Tenacity – Focusing and working hard 
  5. Ingenuity – Being creative and ingenious with solutions

Do we need to change these? Can someone meet these consistently every week? 

There needs to be a system to track them otherwise we can lose track of our culture. 

Culture Changes at Each Stage

At each stage in the company something important to note is that culture can change. 

Different elements of the values above may be emphasized. 

At bigger companies for example maybe they want more hard work (tenacity) and less ingenuity (creative thinking).

During a crisis perhaps more vulnerability is emphasized, so imagine if we were hit in a recession this is how the 5 values of ours would lean in various directions.

Since we’re growing though, let’s look at how culture also changes with size:

At A Small Size You Need Pirates

Pirates are team members who want freedom so they’re fine being paid less. They like the risk and the thrill. They like conquering and they like breaking the rules. Why do they not care about rules? Because in the early days when you’re exploring you’re unsure of whether what you’re doing is following previous conventions or not, so pirates are comfortable with this.

In our case some of our early members are pirates, others are not (that’s ok too).

At Big You Need Citizens

Citizens like order, efficiency and processes. They understand that everyone has their own place and like following systems because things are predictable. 

As a company hits the various stages below it’ll have less freedom driven people and more rule/system driven people. 

So as we grow what happens to the pirates!? 

Well I have 3 ideas: 1. Traditionally they leave because they hate rules. More rules = less freedom. OR 2. They lead sectors of the business so they feel they have enough freedom such as R&D. 3. We invest in them to start their own ventures.

If you have other ideas, please tell me. 🙂

How Our Size is Changing:

  1. Family (1-9 people) 
  2. Tribe (10-99) – (Where we are Today, about 23)
  3. Village (100-999)

As you can see as we grow the more rules we’ll have to follow. 

Will we ever get to the village size? Well unless there’s fast growth inside this business model I plan to cap this company at about 30 people…but who knows what the future holds, the farther you go the harder it is to predict.

At bigger sizes managing people and processes can be more and more complex so it’ll probably be key to pause at this point and reflect, are we optimal? Or: should it grow in another direction? 

How To Ensure We Have a Great Culture

Here have been the ideas we’ve created to have a better culture, let me know if you think of others:

  1. Hiring with our values in mind. This is the start and why we do trials as well with people. No we will not be perfect in hiring and NO the culture will not be perfect, but we strive to make it as best as we can vs. what most companies do…NOTHING. They’ll just have a sticker with some values and that’s about it or maybe a page on their website. 
    1. I could end it right here, but feel “hiring well” is just a cop out because the best hires want awesome rituals. 
  2. I’m gonna try blogging at least every other day or daily in hopes of creating a positive effect on people around me and leveling their thinking up as well. 
  3. Create Books or Videos So People Understand Them
    1. New hires are required to read these. Old Hires don’t see values in books and I don’t know if I can force them to read them, perhaps those motivated by pay will be paid to do so? Or better yet, those who have read books get larger rewards? The true incentive is knowledge…I feel like people undervalue this too much still.
  4. Create Weekly Rituals To Represent Them
    1. We do a weekly raffle call, but everyone doesn’t attend. Perhaps we should have a weekly call on Friday and have more than just the raffle? Maybe require everyone to attend? The challenge with forcing people to do things is they’ll seldom repeat the action and it’s not a real change. 
  5. Have People Log How They’re Practicing Values 
    1. We have honesty, vulnerability, caring, ingenuity and tenacity in our company chat channel. Where else can these values be?

Is our system perfect? Hell no. So I’m looking forward to your feedback on how to improve our culture and solidify our company.



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