Building Culture – Startup CEOs Share Insights and Experience

One of the important things about building a company from scratch is that founders can also get to create the business culture from scratch. However, empty closets are made for filling, and blank slates don’t stay blank for long.

When it comes to culture, successful founders are intentional from day one. Here are some thought starters from three Rev1 CEOs.

On Culture and Strategy

“Culture is a strategy.”

Paul Grimm, CEO, Myoptechs

Culture is part of the strategy—just like the product we are developing or how we go to market. The importance of that strategy must be fostered and maintained.

For me, culture starts with making sure everyone is included and communicated with. We have all been in companies, both large and small, where we don’t feel we are being told important things. In a small company, there is no excuse for not ensuring that everyone feels included. Communication is even more critical becauseyou are small.

At Myoptechs, we make sure that everyone—founders, investors, consultants, and strategic partners—feel included. That’s how to get everyone to buy in.

Any time I am talking with those consultants, partners at OSU, or others who are outside the business, I use a slide deck with the same updates and key points—not on the day-to-day of our business, but to keep everyone aware of our plan and remind them of our achievements, and when things change.

Additionally, there is no place for cultures that foster negativity, cynicism, and fear. One must always lead with and assume positive intent. At our company, we want to hear the bad news fast. We don’t sit on failures. Communication includes raising bad news fast so we can learn and adjust.

On Culture and Talent

“Encourage People to Support the Culture without Being Robots”

Sheri Chaney-Jones, President and CEO SureImpact

Our values drive our corporate cultures. SureImpact is my second company. Both companies have almost the same corporate values. I realized that’s because the values are mine.

At the center of culture at SureImpact is the concept of empathy. Empathy is putting ourselves in our customers’ shoes. What are they trying to accomplish, and how can SureImpact be a solution? Empathy is also putting ourselves in the shoes of our co-workers. How does each action impact the people we work with? How does each of us contribute to a culture of understanding that we are all better together?

People are attracted to us because they want to make a difference in their work. We are a technology company and are intentional about innovation. Here’s how that ties into empathy. We gather information from our customers and each other, and that’s how we approach client-centric innovation.

In every team meeting, in conversations, or reviews of our product roadmap, we ask ourselves, what is the challenge or problem we are addressing here? How does this activity align with our values? If it doesn’t, we reset it until it does. Or we stop.

We encourage people to support our culture without being a robot–to act and behave according to our company’s values through curiosity and asking questions. Not asking what to do, but rather saying to leaders and mentors: “I want to learn to make decisions like you. Here’s the situation. How would you handle it and why.”

On Culture and Teams

“In our culture, we are one team. We strive to never take anyone for granted.”

Teri Sirset, CEO, DASI Simulations

We are in the business of saving lives and promoting health. When we built our leadership team, we brought on like-minded individuals that brought diversity. When we are hiring, we would instead hire candidates who fit culturally and teach them what they need to know. very employee has a voice and contributes. We commiserate on our losses. We celebrate our wins. We are one team. We win as a team or lose as team. We tell prospective hires that if team-player isn’t part of your makeup DASI is not the team for you to be on.

We value team members who possess collaborative and cross-functional skills. Clinical staff engage with the engineering team, and the reverse is also true, fostering collaboration and inclusiveness. Our commitment to fairness is evident, as we provide an open-door policy and group discussions as avenues for voicing opinions. Our aim is for every individual to recognize the importance of their viewpoint and experience a sense of belonging.

In our culture, we prioritize identifying each team member’s strengths and weaknesses, leveraging those strengths while helping them improve in new areas. We ensure nobody lags behind and actively promote education, firmly believing in everyone’s capacity to learn continuously.

More culture insights in small bites.

Building the Culture You Want – The Parable of the Blue Chair

The Business Case for Culture here

6 Tips to Build a Collaborative Workplace Culture –  Inc. by Kristy Campbell, Rev1 EVP & COO

Video: Leadership: Culture, Change, and Conversations