Five principles of company culture from a global startup
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You can probably describe your company’s financial goals, but can you articulate what your business’s beliefs are? Company culture is sometimes hard to define, but evaluating your work environment and developing core principles are essential for success. After all, culture can affect retention rates. Most employees say workplace culture strongly affects decisions about whether to remain at their job. It also affects economic output since satisfied employees are 12% more productive than their peers.
At Ready For Social, building positive workplace norms has helped us accomplish more. As a startup with employees located on three continents, virtual meetings and messages have always been a significant part of our communication. Over the years, we have had to work especially hard to create a sense of community. Although it hasn’t been easy to develop, we see our culture as our most important asset since it unifies our company and includes norms that guide us through unfamiliar situations.
Are you ready to take the necessary steps toward a unique and incomparable company culture that brings your business to the next level? Taking a look at our five core values will help you understand how each of them helped us succeed—and realize how you can do the same for your business.
1. Always get it done for the client and the team
Our most important value is making sure clients can rely on us since delivering world-class work is the foundation of our business. “Always getting it done” means we plan ahead and leave plenty of time to complete projects. This schedule gives us enough time to handle any unexpected issues.
In addition to clients, we need to be reliable for our fellow team members as well. Being located in varying time zones makes this especially essential. We need to be confident that coworkers on different continents will complete everything before going offline since they may not be available during other people’s workdays. In 2020, when our workplace transitioned from hybrid to fully online, this principle became even more crucial. By communicating about tasks and consistently fulfilling responsibilities, we limit last-minute messages and super urgent to-dos.
2. Always try to get better and ask for help
Entrepreneurs are known for a constant sense of drive since they’re always striving to meet the next goal or deadline. We have maintained this growth-oriented mindset since Ready For Social was founded in 2013, and we expect each team member to recognize their weaknesses and seek perpetual improvement. We also highlight workers who have knowledge or strong skills on certain topics and encourage others to approach that person for tutorials and advice. By supporting collaboration and reciprocal learning, we strengthen team cohesion along the way.
3. Live extreme ownership
This value is based on Jocko Willink and Leif Babin’s book Extreme Ownership: How U.S. Navy SEALs Lead and Win. The book encourages leaders on the battlefield and in the boardroom to take complete responsibility for their team’s success or failure. When facing problems or mistakes, which are bound to occur in a fast-moving startup, we don’t search for excuses, pass blame or focus on what would have happened “if only” someone else had acted differently.
Instead, as leaders, we consider how we can set our team up for success next time, and we extend this mindset to every single employee. We ask that everyone holds themselves accountable and considers how they can act differently moving forward, rather than distancing themselves from challenging situations. This technique helps create a culture of mutual support.
4. Practice radical truth and transparency
Along the same lines, we want people to feel comfortable being honest about difficult topics. The phrase “radical truth and transparency” comes from entrepreneur Ray Dalio’s book Principles: Life and Work, and we encourage people to practice it when discussing mistakes or concerns. Direct communication is more efficient than dropping hints, circumventing issues or guessing what colleagues are thinking. By being open to difficult conversations and making sure employees are comfortable speaking up, we’re able to tackle problems head-on and move forward faster.
5. Communicate constantly
This principle might sound like a platitude, but we’ve learned that it’s not always obvious or easy. The success of projects has often hinged on sharing important details. Much of our communication takes place through task management software, where conversation threads are visible to the whole team even when only a few collaborators are chatting. There’s a weekly company-wide email providing updates on each of our accounts and we hold monthly All Hands meetings to bring people up to speed on earnings, expenses, and progress toward our long-term goals. This process mimics the flow of information in a physical office, where people are peripherally aware of projects they may not be directly involved in.
We’ve also learned that frequent communication is essential for building a community in a virtual workplace. Even when the pandemic forced us to operate fully online, our experience working across continents prepared us to remain tightly knit.
How do we bring these values to life?
Company leaders serve as champions of principles, and our values are largely based on their personal beliefs. Although devising principles “by committee” can sound like a good idea, it’s easier to create a distinctive vision by aligning with the values of one or two founders, who are in charge of fostering company culture. This method makes it even easier for leaders to discuss the company’s culture with genuine enthusiasm.
We integrate our values into the hiring process and are transparent about our expectations, so prospective employees can consider whether they fit into our culture. Then, during the onboarding stage, we build a shared frame of reference by distributing the books Extreme Ownership and Principles: Life and Work, so new hires can gain deeper context about where our principles come from.
The work of developing our culture is never over. We realized that even when presenting our guiding principles begins to feel repetitive, it’s important to explain as many times as needed. Most employees have not discussed our values as often as the founders have, and it can be useful to remind everyone what we’re working toward.
Applying our values in daily situations is even more important than talking about them. In weekly emails to the whole team, we highlight great work done by individual employees to generate enthusiasm and provide strong examples. By balancing celebration with an attitude of constant improvement, we strive to create a sense of togetherness and excitement about our work.
As a leader or employee, what do you believe are the most important principles of company culture? Let us know in the comments section below.