Building The Right Culture For Your Startup

In the early days of your startup , you may think your biggest priorities are to attract the best talents, search for funders, and launch your product. These are important, but more important is building the right company culture for your startup. According to Tony Hsieh, the CEO of Zappos:

“Our number one priority is company culture. Our whole belief is that if you get the culture right, most of the other stuff like delivering great customer service or building a long-term enduring brand will just happen naturally on its own.”

Today, Zappos is known for its great customer service. Although it is now under Amazon, Zappos still maintains its own identity and quality. This level of success has only been possible due to its business culture.

So building a great culture is important for your startup to succeed. As Brian Chesky, the CEO and co-founder of Airbnb says,“A company’s culture is the foundation for future innovation. An entrepreneurs job is to build the foundation.”

In this article, learn what makes a great startup culture and how to make one for your own startup.

Start with defining your values:

What do you think when you think about startup culture? Foosball tables, no cubicles, yoga mats and such? These might make you think startup culture is about fun and play only. However, a startup culture is more than that.

In his book “Zero to One”, Peter Thiel writes : “No company has a culture; every company is a culture. A startup is a team of people on a mission, and a good culture is just what that looks like on the inside.”

From Thiel’s word, it is clear that culture comes from within the company. And it starts from the founder(s).  The values and beliefs of the founder(s) form the company culture. For example, at Zappos, Tony Hsieh believes in the power of individual. So he built a culture where personal characteristics and organizational demands went in harmony. He gave employees autonomy in their work roles. Call center employees don’t read any scripted texts. Rather they are empowered to use their own creativity to handle customers. They even don’t need the permission of their managers regarding this. Once a customer had lost her shoes she ordered from Zappos. She called one call centre employee so that she can get another pair of the same shoes. However, Zappos didn’t have that shoe in their stock. So the call center employee went to a rival shoe store, bought the shoe and delivered to the customer free of cost!

Such an empowering culture has been beneficial for Zappos.  As a result, employees don’t only feel motivated, but customers are satisfied by receiving personal and human messages.

So begin building your startup culture by finding out what you value the most. Then instill it in your business. If you value open communication and good relationships , create a culture where employees can directly contact anyone, including the CEO! Be more approachable- greet them, have personal conversations with them, show interest in their personal development and help them when you can.

Find people who will fit in the culture:

By now, you must be convinced that building a startup culture is important. But a culture you envision for your startup will only be realized if everyone at your startup believes and fits in the culture.

Therefore, it is necessary to hire people who will fit in with your culture. Even though an employee might be an expert in their field, they won’t bring value  unless they fit in your company culture. For example, in Zappos’s early days, Tony Hsieh personally led the hiring process . He offered a two part test. The first part tested skills, while the second part assessed how the applicant would fit in at Zappos. This involved some tests or working with the team. According to Hsieh:

“Even if a person is great at their job, even if they’re a superstar at their job if they’re bad for our culture we’ll fire them for that reason alone. And performance reviews are 50% based on whether you’re living and inspiring the Zappos culture in others.”

So try to see whether the characteristics of the person and the values match with the culture of your startup. If it doesn’t you shouldn’t hire that person.

Ofcourse, culture shouldn’t be the only metric to decide whether a person should be hired. But try to see if that person is skillful and at the same time, will be able to work with everyone else in your startup.

Make employees learn the culture

Now that you have hired people who will fit in with your company culture, instill the culture in your employees. A company with a strong culture is the one where employees are aware of and one with the values, beliefs and traditions of the company.

According to Reed Hastings, the CEO of Netflix:

“A strong culture should be a true articulation of how your employees work at their best. It should be grounded in your shared mission, the thing you are trying to accomplish. It should be understood by everyone and built by everyone, and it should start from your earliest days as a startup.”

So make your team learn and understand the company culture. This way, they will learn to emulate the culture you want to inoculate in your startup.  The way you as a founder can make employees learn your startup’s culture is by your actions. For example: At Styline (a startup focusing on fashion and cosmetics), CEO Khobaib Chowdhury believes in a culture of learning. So he arranges a weekly meeting with all the teams of Styline. Members discuss their progresses and get valuable feedback in return. In this way, Khobaib built a culture of learning at Styline.

Create refresher sessions

Creating refresher sessions is a fun way of instilling your company culture among your employees. Not only do they learn the culture, but also feel they belong to your startup. And that is quite important for you to retain talents.

You can create refresher sessions by hosting some ice breaking sessions or arranging outings or treating your employees to an outside treat. When he ran Next after being ousted from Apple, Steve Jobs would take his employees to an outdoor retreat at a resort. In a relaxed environment, employees would share new ideas to an often light-hearted Jobs.

Even if you can’t afford such entertainments, you can always use simple ways to refresh your employees. Sit with your employees in lunch. Talk with them about work or personal stuffs. Make close relationships with them. This way, you can build a better bond with your employees and can motivate them.

Or, start weekly gatherings where everyone shares something new with others. At Praava (a healthcare startup dealing with family healthcare and diagnostic services), CEO Sylvana Quader Sinha arranges weekly gatherings where every member teach others something new. One might teach meditation, other might teach good posture habits, another brushing!

Now you know the importance of a great company culture for your startup to succeed. So try the steps mentioned and you can create a great culture for your startup.

Writer: Farhan Uddin Ahmed

BGIC Winners from Khulna Cohort: Three Social Businesses to join YY Goshti Incubator

The Pitch Day of Blue Gold Innovation Challenge – Khulna cohort took place at Tiger Garden International Hotel on October 22, 2017 from 4:00pm to 6:00pm. The event was hosted by Shah Waseef Azam, Program Manager of YY Goshti. It was followed by a welcome remark from Shazeeb M Khairul Islam, CEO of YY Goshti. Later the audience witnessed an hour of presentations from the 7 finalists. Each finalist got 5 minutes for presenting their business plan and 2 minutes for Q&A session. The event was attended by 55+ people. The audience included students, teachers, stakeholders, innovators, entrepreneurs, NGOs and local people. The Jury panel had Mr. Amirul Hossain, Project Coordinating Director (PCD), BWDB, Mr. S.M. Ferdous, District Seed Certification Officer, DAE and Mr. Alamgir Chowdhury, Deputy Team Leader, TA team. The Blue Gold team was also present there to ask questions to the finalists and give them their valuable insights and feedbacks. The event came to an end with concluding remarks from Mr. Amirul Hossain, Project Coordinating Director (PCD), BWDB. He talked about the immense possibilities of entrepreneurs working in polder areas and how they can improve the lives of people giving them employment opportunities. The winners were then announced and they got certificates from the BGP team and the YY Goshti team. The winners are following:

ALOE FARM – With a motto of “everyone deserves to drink organic”, the entrepreneur Rajoana Jannat will produce organic aloe vera juice for the people of khulna region. This product will have social impacts by providing organic nutritious drinks to health conscious people and empowering rural women of khulna polder area economically by letting them produce aloe vera and the juice.

REGEN – Fahim Uddin Shuvo produces best quality vermi compost by collecting and recycling food waste concentrating on commercial kitchens aiming to contribute towards a clean and better city and providing low lying land farmers better fertilizers.

SMART POULTRY FARM – Abdullah Al Musabbir wants to start a poultry consultant and service providing company, Tech-Gen, which will launch smart poultry farm service providing bio-gas based electricity production plant, fertilizer production system, automatic temperature and humidity controlling system to the poultry farmers at the cheapest cost.

However this not the end,  in fact this is the starting of a new and much more exciting journey where their commitment and dedication towards their initiative can make a lot of differences. YY goshti will now assist them with office space, pro-bono services, mentorship, business development process, creative and web development services, strategic consultancy and partnership

BGIC got Finalists for its 2nd Cohort in Khulna

The Blue Gold Innovation Challenge has got its top ten finalists from Khulna region that will compete for the Blue Gold Innovation Fund to launch their social businesses in the coming week. They will attend the Innovation Camp and Pitch Camp in Khulna and present their business ideas in front of the judges on the Pitch Day.

The Blue Gold Innovation Challenge (BGIC) is a social business incubation program organized by YY Goshti in collaboration with Blue Gold Program (BGP). The BGIC promotes innovative social entrepreneurship and challenges young people of coastal Bangladesh to design sustainable business solutions.

List of Selected Finalists:

  1. Rajoana Jannat
  2. Nirodh Paul
  3. Abdullah Al Noman
  4. Shourov Barua
  5. Mortoza Morshed
  6. Khairul Alam
  7. Fahim Uddin
  8. Ananda Kumar Biswas
  9. Tasnimul Rifat
  10. Abdullah Al Musabbir

The finalists have been chosen based on their credibility, innovation in business, scalability and feasibility. Finalists will be attending the ‘Innovation Camp’ from October 16-19, 2017 to be held in Khulna. This will help them learn the ins and outs of social business development. The participants will get the opportunity to work with facilitators where they will receive at least 30-35 class hours. The entrepreneurs will also receive 10-12 hours of pitch coaching on October 21-22, 2017. The outcome of this Camp will be a pitch deck ready to be presented in front of investors for each finalist. The sessions will culminate in live Pitch Day in Khulna on October 22, 2017 where the participants will make a final presentation of their ideas in front of a panel of judges and an audience of relevant stakeholders. The winners will get the chance to incubate their businesses and build them into prototypes ready for scaling up. They will be able to access small seed capital to prototype their product/services. YY Goshti will work with them in one-on-one advisory sessions to help them along their prototype building phase.

YY Goshti and Blue Gold Program are excitedly looking forward to working with these aspiring idea stage social businesses.

BGIC is now active in Khulna

The Blue Gold Innovation Challenge is now open for innovators, students, startups and organizations from Khulna region who would like to launch social businesses addressing water supply management, agriculture and sustainable development of south west region of Bangladesh.  Participants from other districts are also allowed to apply, but they must attend sessions in Khulna and execute their plans in Khulna districts as well.

 

The Blue Gold Innovation Challenge (BGIC) is a social business incubation program organized by YY Goshti in collaboration with Blue Gold Program (BGP). The BGIC promotes innovative social entrepreneurship and challenges young people of coastal Bangladesh to design sustainable business solutions.

 

Entrepreneurs should be aged 18-35 and preferably from/connected to the Khulna region. It is not necessary for the entrepreneurs to already have a well-thought out business plan, just an idea that intersects with the target industries set by the organizers.

 

An online portal is open to receive the submissions both in Bengali and English. You can apply through the following link:

http://bgic.yygoshti.com/apply-now/

 

Emphasis will be given to areas of interest defined by Blue Gold Program i.e. agricultural innovation, water supply management etc. The businesses ideas will be screened to select the most promising ones. The ideas to be shortlisted for online submission round will be determined based on the uniqueness of the Idea, possible innovation, social impact, product or service focused on agriculture and/or water supply management. Winners will be attending an ‘Innovation Camp’ (to be held in Khulna) that will help them learn the ins and outs of social business development. The participants will get the opportunity to work with facilitators for a period of two weeks where they will receive at least 42-48 hours of class hours. The entrepreneurs will also receive 8 hours of pitch coaching. The outcome of this Camp will be a pitch deck ready to be presented in front of investors for each participant. The sessions will culminate in live Pitch Day in Khulna where the participants will make a final presentation of their ideas in front of a panel of judges and an audience of relevant stakeholders. The winners will ‘Incubate’ their businesses, i.e. build them into prototypes ready for scaling up. The winners will be paired with a mentor, with whom they will have one-on-one advisory sessions to help them along their prototype building phase. They will be able to access small seed capital to prototype their product/services. The outcome of the program is to research and understand the content better, and finally, build an active business service that they can continue working on after the BGIC ends.

 

The aspiring entrepreneurs will get to work closely with a mentor who is well-versed in working in the industry and with existing experience as an entrepreneur.  They will also have access to seed capital to use to build a working business. They will also face strategic consultation meetings with YY Goshti every two weeks so their progress can be closely monitored.

YY Goshti is now active in Patuakhali !

The Blue Gold Innovation Challenge (BGIC) launched its first on-location activity “Inspire: Knowledge Sessions” at Patuakhali, Barisal, Bangladesh on December 30. Multiple knowledge sessions were conducted by seasoned social business experts and academics in the city, local universities and colleges. These sessions were attended by students from Patuakhali, Young Professionals, Representatives from local NGOs & NPOs, and local media personnel.

These events were chances to inspire people from the local community to apply for the BGIC program. More than 200 people attended the sessions. A majority of them were students interested in becoming entrepreneurs. The events started with an introduction by Ms. Namista Tabassum, Director of YY Goshti and organizer of BGIC 2016. She welcomed everyone and expressed her anticipation in working with potential entrepreneurs for the next six months. Mr.Shazeeb M. Khairul Islam, Founder of YY Goshti, explained how anyone, with the will and passion, can become a successful entrepreneur. Multiple sessions were conducted during the events as-’Accelerating economic development in Patuakhali using the social business model’ by M F M Amir Khashru, General Manager of Yunus Centre, “Creating Employment Opportunities Through Entrepreneurship”, by Ms. Shahana Sharmin, Country Manager of One97 Communications Ltd and “How Young People Can Lead the Nation’s Development”, by Mr. Wahid Hossain, Founder, and CEO of Tiger Bow.

 

BGIC Launching Ceremony 2016

The Blue Gold Innovation Challenge (BGIC) launched its activities at a Ceremony this December 18, 2016 at 6.00pm. It was held at Moar, Banani 11, Dhaka Bangladesh. The Launching Ceremony was attended by representatives from NGOs, Entrepreneurial Funds and Entrepreneurs from all over Bangladesh.

The event was a chance for those in the development sector to come together and talk about some of the pressing issues in agriculture and water resource management that can be solved through innovative business solutions. Among chief guests was Ms. Lamiya Morshed, Executive Director of Yunus Centre, who shared her thoughts about social business and how the development sector can achieve social impact through more sustainable models. Mr. Boudewijn Sterk, Manager of Innovation Fund, Blue Gold Program and the partner of YY Goshti in this program, was also present. He expressed anticipation in working in the agricultural and water resource management sector, paving the way for collaboration in the development sector that has not been done before. He was excited to see what new things can be achieved through this endeavor. Finally, Shazeeb M. Khairul Islam, Founder of YY Goshti, shared that the YY Goshti team is looking forward to work with aspiring entrepreneurs while building some innovative businesses that can access funds from the Blue Gold Program, using their expertise in incubating next generation businesses.

 

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