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Bursts of Color - Don't F-Up The Culture

Bursts of Color - Don't F-Up The Culture
By Geoff Donaker • Issue #56 • View online
Brian Chesky’s 2013 post on Don’t Fuck Up the Culture made the rounds again this week, so I enjoyed a re-read too. Snippet:
The thing that will endure for 100 years, the way it has for most 100 year companies, is the culture. The culture is what creates the foundation for all future innovation. If you break the culture, you break the machine that creates your products.
Culture is a thousand things, a thousand times. It’s living the core values when you hire; when you write an email; when you are working on a project; when you are walking in the hall. 

One of Yelp's values... apparently still holding strong well after my time
One of Yelp's values... apparently still holding strong well after my time
The Role of Company Values
Certainly “culture is a thousand things,” and is thus a lot more complicated than the handful of values we write down. That said, articulating a few crisp values sure can help newer employees understand the unwritten rules that will help them succeed at your company. At Yelp we first clarified our five values when we were about 50 people. Most start-ups seem to want/need this when headcount is somewhere between 20-50. If you’re going to do this exercise, a few suggestions:
  • Focus on things that are relatively unique for your company (e.g., “we sell software” doesn’t say much)
  • Memorable phrases help (e.g., “move fast and break things”)
  • 4-5 values seems most common; max of 7
  • Tie each value to a specific story; people remember those
Living the Values
Once you’ve chosen and promoted the values, the hard part starts of keeping them alive and making sure the company is actually doing what it says. I’m a big believer in the line that:
The values are not the posters on the walls. They are who gets promoted and who gets fired.
A Ben Horowitz Book on Culture
For those who enjoyed The Hard Thing About Hard Things and haven’t already read What You Do is Who You Are, I recommend it as a fun and different way to think about building team cultures.
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Geoff Donaker

Bursts of Color is a newsletter for start-up leaders who work with Burst Capital. It's meant to include products, people and ideas that I think are interesting and maybe relevant for you.

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