It’s always an extra-special pleasure when a Club Workspace member brings a great event into the space. Last week, in an event hosted by Dreamstake, our old friend Duncan McTavish (left) shared his expertise about building a healthy startup culture.
What is Culture?
The first question to get thrown out at our Leathermarket venue was this: what is a startup culture? Duncan defined culture as, ‘how we maximise our potential by living and working together, how we use speech and actions.” Therefore, if you transfer this into a startup environment, it how an entrepreneur can cultivate an atmosphere in their office that is most conducive to the success of their startup.
Who is Duncan McTavish?
Before Duncan began to explain how the startups in the room could nurture a healthy cutlure, he explained his background. Duncan stated that he would draw largely from his time at Creo. During Duncan’s tenure, Creo grew from a turnover of $200k per-annum to $1 billion. This was, in no small part, down to their culture.
Another question that Duncan answered early was the big ‘why?’ Why should I, as a startup, bother to instill a healthy culture at my startup? Duncan’s simple answer was: if your staff are happy and content, their relationships with your customers will be better. Therefore, if customers are happy, not only might they spend more with you, but they are more likely to recommend and endorse you.
In this modern age, where the perception of brands can live or die on social media, stories of good (or bad!) customer experiences spread like wildfire. Improved customer experience is only one of a host of reasons for why cultivating a healthy startup culture is a good idea.
How? Unit Presidency
After answering the Whats and Whos and Whys, we came to the meaty bit: the How!
The first concept that Duncan introduced was ‘Unit Presidency.’ Unit Presidency is an idea that startups can instill in each of their employees. The idea is this: that you are the president of your job. Noone else in the company, nor nobody else in the world, is as good as you at your job. If a team-member believes that they are the best person at their job in the company, then they do not feel subordinate to, or patronised by, any of their fellows.
This feeling is empowering, and it goes some way to levelling the playing-field that traditionally lies between ‘employees’ and ‘employers’.
Stakeholders, as you will know, is a term that refers to everyone who is effect by a decision. To cultivate a healthy startup culture, one must involve every single stakeholder in the decision making process. Doing so will give every member of the team a huge feeling of ownership. They will feel like part of the decision making machine, rather than pawns that are moved by it.
Duncan explained that consensus is the most important idea to a startup. This is because in small startup teams, if there is one blatant ‘opposer’ and four ‘proposers’, for example, the whole business could fail.
The idea is to avoid there ever being a ‘blatant opposer’. If a 100% consensus cannot be reached by all of the stakeholders, then the 20%, for example, have to openly agree to ‘not oppose’ an idea.
In perfect-startup-land, leadership pyramids would be drawn upside-down. The role of a leader - the founder of a startup - is to create a clear and common vision that every team members can work by. If an entire team is bound by this vision, they can better achieve their unit presidency.
One golden rule handed out by Duncan: do not use recruiters. They will charge you a huge amount to find you a team member who may not have suit your startup culture.
Consider this instead: If your startup is growing at a rate fast enough to require a new recruit, you’re obviously doing something amazing and interesting. Use the natural je ne sais quoi of your startup to create a buzz. If there is notable hype, especially on social media, people will start coming to you.
When you have a queue of recruits standing at your door, select the person who best suits your startup culture. If a person is going to fit seamlessly and happily into your culture, then stump up for their training! It is better to hire a person with the right attitude than to employ a qualified problem-child.
Of course, decisions on hiring should be made by consensus. Each stakeholder who will be effected by the new member of staff should be able to interview the prospective new team-member. If any stakeholder wants to veto the appointment, they have full right to do so. A full consensus much be reached.
A huge thank you to Duncan, for sharing his unique and beneficial experiences. Thanks to Dreamstake, too, for putting the event together. The biggest thank you goes to everyone who came long to our Leathermarket venue. It was a truly eye-opening event.