Some companies care about corporate culture, some companies don’t. Some VC’s care, some don’t. I think that based on some of the recent sales of companies, culture is beginning to play an ever-increasing role. Every company evangelizes its corporate culture. Whether it is corporate America, tech, industrial, or manufacturing they all say it is IMPORTANT. I get it. As a company, employees need to believe in something. I just wonder, do all of these companies really believe that the employees buy into it? It is very easy to have a great culture when things are good, the company is profitable, and the deals are rolling in. It “can” be easy to create a culture based on ping-pong tables, dart boards, and beer available every day. I firmly believe that a great corporate culture will show itself when times are hard, times are tough, and times are lean.
It’s not what you do, but who you do it with
I recently left a top website as the Head of HR to work for a small startup. This new startup has no revenue, the desks are from Ikea, and we just had an outage that lasted for 4 days. We were initially told that the data that we lost (some 46M rows) would be impossible to recover. It didn’t stop the guys. They worked night and day, never gave up, and kept on plowing ahead. Warriors plain and simple. Those of us that aren’t technical tried to help out where we could by making food and coffee runs, trying to keep the place tidy and keeping out of the tired bear’s way. In the end, we got everything back. Everything.
This is corporate culture
- I saw a lot of folks reaching for their wallets when food and coffee were brought in. Not once did I see any money trade hands. It was all unspoken between brothers.
- The guy who made the initial mistake fessed up quickly. When the mess was cleaned up, he approached the CEO and asked if he wanted to discuss the situation, fully expecting to be let go. (he wasn’t, we actually celebrated that he fessed up and the guy is almost a hero) A stand-up guy.
- Not once did I hear anything about blame, whose fault, I have to work late, all night, or “what about my significant other / children”. Not Once.
- The CEO sent out regular updates to the customers admitting fault, taking the blame, and giving his personal contact info to be yelled at or screamed to. (Yes, he wrote that)
- We hired a new guy 2 days before the outage and he did everything he could to help out including staying all night.
Through better or worse, through richer or poorer
This to me is “culture”. Tough to articulate but any company would want this mentality in their teams. I know we are lucky to have it, but I also know that it didn’t come by accident. These are guys I will fight with, fight for, and I know they will do the same for me. We all understand what the mission is, and everyone is pitching in. We aren’t a top website, we aren’t profitable and we don’t have a big name. I do think we “understand the culture”. I need to ask these guys in their own words why they did what they did. Why did they stay night and day? Why didn’t they walk out? Maybe that will shed some light on the word “culture”.
I am glad I am here, and I think we have “culture”
See you at the after-party,
nasty: an unreal maneuver of incredible technique, something that is ridiculously good, tricky and manipulative but with a result that can’t help but be admired, a phrase used to describe someone who is good at something. “He has a nasty forkball”.
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