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How to Preserve Your Culture as You Scale Your Startup

Raj Jana is the founder of JavaPresse Coffee Company, a specialty coffee delivery service that sends premium, freshly-roasted coffee to your door once or twice a month. He started this company because of his desire to use coffee to promote a culture of gratitude. In this article, he offers his tips on how companies can preserve their culture even as they continue to grow.

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Guest Author: Raj Jana, Founder and Chief Brewing Officer, JavaPresse Coffee Company

Company culture can be a huge competitive advantage to your company. It’s one of those intangibles that sets you apart and also make you more efficient and profitable. Often times, one of the reasons that startups find success in the beginning is because their culture supports their desire to grow. With everyone committed to what the company is trying to do, it’s easier to establish a set of values and norms that will help turn your vision into reality.

But as you grow, things will change. Your team will expand, and you’ll slowly cease to be a startup. Yet if you want to build a company that will really last the test of time, then you need to make sure you preserve some of the culture that helped you get going in the first place.

Of course, all of this is much easier said than done. Once things start to expand, it’s much harder to control their direction and if you don’t take the right steps, this can lead to a negative change. Consider the following tips so that you can keep your culture intact as your company grows up.

  • Be Clear About Who You Are

One of the first things any startup should do is outline their core values. These are the things that motivate you and that you are building your company around.

By outlining your core values, you are actively thinking about the type of company you want to be. And this is a critical first step in making sure your startup culture remains the same as you grow. Step aside and ask yourself what defines you. Consider writing out your vision and your mission statement as well.

Something helpful to determine your identity and core values is to remember that businesses exist to satisfy a need or solve a problem. Think about what you do and who you do it for and this should help you distill the parts of you that are unique. These must be preserved, and you must work to make them define who you are as a company.

  • Use Culture as a Recruiting Tool 

One of the things that will dramatically affect how your company changes as it grows is the people. When someone joins your team, he or she will bring with them his or her particular values, attitudes, beliefs, opinions and methods, and these will influence how people inside the company act. You need to make sure that you’re bringing in people who will mesh with your team and will also influence positive change.

To do this, make culture a key aspect of your recruiting practices. Interviews are a great place for this, as they are an opportunity to get to know people and what they stand for. It helps to ask people about how they spend their free time, or about how they would run a company if given the chance. You could also ask them questions that help uncover some of their passions or world-views.

Another thing you should do is build your company culture into your employer brand. This is the image and perception people have of your company as a place to work. If you can communicate on social media and through your job advertisements what your culture is and what you’re looking for, it’ll be easier to attract people who will be a good fit and repel those who won’t. This is what Netflix was doing when they created and distributed their culture deck -- and it had a huge impact on creating preserving their culture as the company grew.

  • Be Adaptable

John Kotter and James Heskett’s seminal 1992 book, Corporate Culture and Performance, taught us that culture becomes a competitive edge when it’s appropriate to its surroundings and when it emphasizes customers, employees, and investors.

A big part of preserving company culture is knowing who we are and sticking to it. But you cannot resist change. As you become more involved with customers, and as you bring in more people, you will change. However, the trick is to make sure you change for the better.

Growth and development is a natural human desire, and when people feel as though they’re in an environment that’s stagnant or suffocating, they will leave. So, to keep people around, and to subsequently preserve your culture as you grow, you need to be open and flexible.

Listen to ideas and suggestions about how you could be doing better. There will be times when you’ll be challenged to do something that makes you uncomfortable, but this often ends up being a growth experience.

We all have values we won’t sacrifice, and having a good foundation is critical to maintaining company culture -- but keep an open mind about what you can be and watch as your culture evolves to give you a greater competitive edge.

  • Culture Depends on You

Don’t ever think culture development is out of your hands. There are some things that will develop organically, but if you strategize, you can steer your organization towards a culture that will make it better for both employees and customers. Don’t take a back seat and instead, start taking steps to preserve your startup’s culture today.


The opinions expressed here by 1871 guest writers are their own, not those of 1871. To learn more about Raj Jana or JavaPresse Coffee Company, follow this link.

Topics: Insights

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