It isn’t easy to start a company. And it’s very hard to determine what kind of company you want to be, culturally: do you value employees who work more hours than they should? Do you value collaboration or a social atmosphere? With so many options, deciding which are right for your company takes some serious thought. One of the best ways to determine what kind of culture you want your new company to have is to listen to the people who’ve been there before and to figure out what your brand is. Here are some great ways to figure out what kind of business yours should be.
Henry Kravis, co-founder of private equity firm KKR, believes that it’s okay if you don’t know where to start when it comes to your company’s culture. “When you’re 32 years old and starting a company, you don’t know what you don’t know,” he says. “So here’s the advice I give young people: Believe in yourself, build an incredibly strong team, and focus on your company’s culture.”
Employees value a company with a clear culture, so Kravis is right: the sooner you choose and implement yours, the better. But how do you do that? Decide what is most valuable to you about your business and what you want your office to be like. Then be transparent with your staff about expectations and communicate clearly, openly, and honestly.
Prioritize what you value and focus on making it an essential part of your company. Someone has to be accountable for making sure the company culture not only exists, but that it’s apparent in all the company does. As the boss, chances are that someone is you. Work as a team with your employees to drive your company message forward, and reward and recognize employees who advance the company culture. By teaching your employees the tenets of your company’s attitude, you empower them to thrive in and develop it on their own.
Lastly, it helps to have your company culture defined by the physical space your employees work in. If you value collaboration and communication, consider an open-style office, where everyone can see each other. But for other people who need to close their doors, walled offices advance that culture.
For Kravis, culture is everything. “Jerry Kohlberg, George Roberts, and I started with a specific culture in mind, which is one of the reasons we all left Bear Stearns. Bear was very much an eat-what-you-kill culture, and that’s exactly what we didn’t want,” he explains. “We were big believers in working together. We wanted everyone to share in everything we did.”
That culture is still in place today, Kravis adds. That culture is one of the reasons KKR has survived so long and done so well. It will take time to decide what your culture should look like, but that will be time well spent in the long run.