Start-Up Culture : Why it’s important and how to build it!

Updated: May 3

Organisational culture is hugely important to the success and overall health of your company, your people, and your customers.

Before a business even opens its doors (physically or virtually) the organisational culture has started to form. An organisation’s culture impacts everything from performance, to how the brand is perceived in the market.

Organisational culture is the attitude and personality of the business and the team. It represents your values as an organisation, the way you do business, how you treat your employees and your organisation’s vision.

Culture is driven through proactive actions.

What seemed to happen effortlessly in the beginning, if not deliberately managed, can stall growth and reduce productivity.Unhealthy cultures left unchecked can become toxic, driving high performers and knowledge out of your business.If you have recently experienced a drop in productivity and employee engagement, or an increase in the number of staff complaints or exits, these could all be signs that your culture could do with a tune up.

Here are 5 steps to help you understand and nurture your culture

1. Understand your purpose and communicate

Take your team on a journey. Help them to understand what the organisation’s purpose is and how they each contribute to this overall purpose. Make their work meaningful. In a 2014 survey conducted by Deloitte, 73 percent of employees who say they work at a “purpose-driven” company felt engaged at work.

Simon Sinek’s “Find Your Why” is a great place to start if you haven’t yet considered this or are looking to reset culture.

2. Define and document your values

While the purpose defines why you do what you do, values define how you act in pursuit of that purpose. Values are a key component of a healthy culture as they guide actions and set the expectation of how employees in the organisation should behave.

The best values are those that are written as intentions of behaviour.

For example:

Be honest’ as opposed to ‘Honesty’

Having values in place provides a framework for leaders to manage within. When everyone knows the values, and they are clear, if off track behaviours arise, it is easier to construct a conversation around the performance against the known expectations.

Additionally, values (and a culture aligned to values) are a great way to attract great talent and more customers!

3. Engage your team members

Having employees who are emotionally and psychologically attached to their work and workplace plays a key role in creating positive employee relationships and a positive culture. Engaged employees are 17% more productive and have a 41% lower rate of absenteeism.

Here are two ways to influence your engagement:

  1. Invest in your leaders, give them to resources to build engaged and motivated teams.

  2. Set clear goals. In line with the reason for sharing your purpose, employees need to be clear on the goals for the business, their team and themselves.

Engagement is a continuous year-round initiative. The best cultures aren’t built on an annual survey; they are cultivated in an environment where people continuously feel heard, understood and that they are contributing to a purpose.

4. Hire great people

As you are growing and bringing in more people to your fold, each new hire changes the tapestry of the business. This is why it is especially important for scale-ups to hire for both job and culture fit. Yes, they need to be able to do the job, but they also need to compliment the culture and add value.

Consider including a values-based assessment in your interview and selection process.

5. Constantly review your culture

Just like engagement (and all people focused initiatives), creating a great company culture isn’t a once off isolated activity.Culture evolves over time, and you should be reviewing it regularly to understand the reality of your culture, against how you think it should be. Your employees are the best resource you have for this. Give them an opportunity to talk about the culture and what they think and feel it is, and you will quickly have evidence for both on track and off-track behaviours.


Creating a positive and strong company culture, especially for a scale-up, is one way to help ensure the longevity of your business. The time required to understand, nurture, and grow a positive culture is significantly less than the time that would be required to turn around a poor culture. It starts with communication, engaging your team on the journey and making a commitment to regularly review the culture. Even at early stages, you are creating a culture, whether consciously or not, so set aside time now to nurture it the way you want it to grow.