Creating a Company Culture (Tips for Entrepreneurs)

If you have to choose between hiring for experience and company culture, always hire based on culture fit. You can build skill and experience.

I want to take a few minutes today to talk about the importance of culture fit in your small business.

As an entrepreneur, eventually you will have a product or service that is likely to need a support network of more than just you.

That’s the point where you start thinking about hiring team members. Whether it’s just a customer service person, someone to help with production or a team of developers, it will be time to start sourcing new people to bring into your company.

With all the resources available to us right now, it can be easy to hire someone to help you with your business. And if all you need is a short contract for a single service, choosing a contractor off Upwork can be a great solution.

But if you want to grow your business and take it to the next level, it is incredibly important that you hire based on your vision for your company and what you want to achieve, not just a skill set.

Building the Funnelytics Company Culture

When I decided to grow Funnelytics into a much bigger company, I got lucky.

I’m not particularly good at customer service or designing systems to give people an incredible experience.

My wife Brigitte, however, is. She thrives on that stuff. And when it came time for me to start building Funnelytics into a larger team, she happened to be available for hire.

So I was able to bring her on to help me find the people that would help us take the company the next level.

At that point I had two full-time virtual developers, had just hired a third, and two contractors who were working 30+ hours a week. So I already had a team.

Most of my team members were remote, though, so we didn’t have much of a company culture. So I decided to host a 2-day team meeting in Toronto to kick off the next phase of the company.

I flew everyone in and put them up in a hotel, then we spent two days talking about the business and where we were headed.

We instantly started establishing a bond as a team… and it became obvious which team members didn’t fit with the energy that we were creating. All the people I had brought on were definitely talented, but some of them just weren’t on the same page as the rest of the team in terms of dedication and drive.

So I had to do something really hard…

I had to let them go because they didn’t fit our company culture.

I had made a costly mistake by hiring the wrong people… not only because I paid their salaries, but because sourcing new team members halted development and ended in us having to re-do a lot of the work that was already done.

That “mistake” got us to start thinking about the company culture we wanted to create, though.

And we learned a lot about what we wanted in a team moving forward.

3 Core Elements of Creating a Company Culture

If you study any great book on the topic of Team Culture, you’ll come to realize that people buy in to three core things when deciding to join a company.

They’ll want to know about:

  1. Work Environment. Can I see myself working here every day? Does the company offer cool perks that are in line with what’s important to me? Am I being paid a competitive salary for my role?
  2. Core Values. Are the company’s core principles/values in line with my beliefs and what is important to me?
  3. Company Vision. Do I believe in the company and what it’s trying to accomplish in the world?

It was time to define who we wanted on our team and the kind of company we wanted to grow in these three core areas.

It’s a really important exercise that far too many Entrepreneurs don’t think about – or think about too late – but if I’m going to war, I want to be 100% sure that I’m bringing people with me that will give us the best chance of winning.

Creating a Work Environment

The first question any digital entrepreneur has to ask themselves about building a team is:

Do we build our team virtually or locally?

There are pros and cons to both.

With Zoom, Slack and other technologies, working virtually is pretty easy nowadays. Virtual is great for flexibility and finding diverse talent around the world, but it’s harder to brainstorm, collaborate and bond with the team.

In most situations it’s harder to find talent locally, but collaboration and culture are easier to establish when everyone is in the same space once in awhile. I’m located in Toronto and surrounded by loads of talent, so I decided to go with local.

This inherently creates risk because we need to establish a larger physical office, pay higher salaries for top talent, etc. The timing worked out, though, because the agreements on our two small “co-working” offices were coming to an end.

Moving into our own space on a short-term sublease made financial sense – we’d just need to find the office space. But the “location” is just one factor to the work environment equation… I also had to consider the perks.

What makes Funnelytics cooler than most companies to work for?

I couldn’t afford benefits just yet… but I COULD provide a super flexible environment. I wanted to provide unlimited vacation days and unlimited remote-work days, a model being adopted more and more by tech companies. And when it comes to the working environment, it’s pretty simple.

I just keep asking myself…

“If I had to have a job and work for a company, what would make it really cool and get me excited?”

Flexibility is definitely a perk… but to truly answer that question you need to start diving into the core values of your company.

Establishing your Core Values

The Core Values are what bonds everyone together within a team. It’s the type of mindset we all have, a common approach to life and work… but more than that, it’s how we actually embody this “code” as a company.

When coming up with Core Values, the idea is to define your team with one paragraph or acronym. Something that resonates with everyone who joins the team, and something that keeps everyone accountable.

It’s not just a mindset or words on a page… it’s how your team operates as a business.

At Funnelytics, we are ALL creators. A CREATOR embodies:

C: Collaboration – Working as teammates to solve, produce & create.
R: Resiliency – Strength and capacity to never give up and overcome obstacles.
E: Evolution – Continuously evolving professionally and personally.
A: Adaptability – Possessing an adaptable and flexible mindset.
T: Transparency – Transparent communication on all levels.
O: Ownership – Own your work and take responsibility for your results.
R: Results – Hyper-focus on result-oriented activities. Celebrate wins.

But like I said before… it’s not just about the clever acronym.

It’s about HOW we embody this within our company and what initiatives we are taking to form this CREATOR culture.

And once you’ve created your core values, you can’t help but look at them and ask yourself…

“Is everyone on the team in line with the core values? Are we, as a company, doing things to embody our values?”

Having this kind of team is priceless and will help you grow leaps and bounds…

But they need to work toward something that gets them excited or it’s all for nothing.

Creating Your Vivid Company Vision

Last year I went to L.A. to attend a high-level mastermind with 12 other entrepreneurs. I had one major takeaway from the mastermind that changed the direction and future of Funnelytics.

It’s called a Vivid Vision presentation. You can watch mine right here, but this is how it works:

Instead of trying to come up with this grand “world-changing” vision for the future of your company, pretend you’ve traveled forward three years in time and paint a VIVID picture of what has happened over the last three years to get you to where you are now.

Think about these 9 things:

  1. Your Core Metrics. What core metrics have you achieved that represent the impact you had on your industry? Your metrics shouldn’t be about how much money you make… they should be about how you are impacting your market.
  2. Your Why. Why is your company in business? Why do you do what you do?
  3. Your Numbers. How have your core metrics improved over the past 3 years? Where do you stand now? Remember, it’s not about the money you are making – it’s about the impact.
  4. Your Tribe. Your audience. Your customers. Who are they? Who do you serve three years in the future?
  5. Your Business Activities. How do you serve your customers? What business activities do you have in place to help them?
  6. Your Internal Team. How is your company structured? How many people work for your company, where are they located?
  7. Your Culture Code. What does your company stand for? What do your people embody? Summarize it in an acronym if possible.
  8. High Profile Customers & Partners. Who are the influencers/high profile people using your products and services? Who is partnering with you by December 31st, 2021?
  9. Recognition & Community. Three years in the future, who has recognized you? Where are you featured? Are you speaking on stages? What kind of impact have you had beyond your business and customers?

Remember, the goal of the exercise is to imagine yourself three years in the future and look BACK over the past three years, then outline what has happened.

This will give you massive clarity about where you are going as a company – for both you and your employees.

Once we had established these three areas for Funnelytics, we started using a summarized version in our job posts and it has been part of our interview process ever since.

Hiring is always a very tedious process – but understanding exactly the TYPE of person you want on your team (based on culture-fit) will make the entire process much smoother.

It makes it easier to eliminate candidates that don’t fit and to move forward with candidates that do fit. Skill and expertise become secondary because you’ll automatically start hiring people who fit your company culture and vision.

Which will help you grow your company faster with less effort because everyone will be on the same page.

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