The best startups succeed in large part because of a strong company culture. A strong, meaningful company culture is the foundation off which startups can do great things.
It’s critical when you first start a business to think about company culture and decide with your partners what type of culture you’d like to build. But it’s also important to realize that the founders of the company can’t really create the culture or dictate it; the founders need to instigate and incubate.
If you think you can create and dictate company culture for your employees then you’re already in trouble. That’s a very top-down approach, and generally with small teams in startup mode, it doesn’t work. As founders you need ideas on what you want, and you’ll need to put forth those ideas and encourage their adoption, but it’s the entirety of the team that will really create the company culture.
Marc Andreessen comments on the issues of company culture brilliantly in his post, The Pmarca Guide to Startups, part 1: Why not to do a startup:
It takes time for the culture of any company to become “set” — for the team of people who have come together for the first time to decide collectively what they’re all about, what they value — and how they look at challenge and adversity.
In the best case, you get an amazing dynamic of people really pulling together, supporting one another, and working their collective tails off in pursuit of a dream.
In the worst case, you end up with widespread, self-reinforcing bitterness, disillusionment, cynicism, bad morale, contempt for management, and depression.
And you as the founder have much less influence over this than you’ll think you do.
Instigating and incubating your company’s culture means setting forth what you hope will become reality, and fostering that as much as possible. Sometimes it’s big picture things – overarching beliefs you want the company to espouse. But more often it’s doing little things to demonstrate through action how you’d like the company culture to work.