The Blue Kite Blog

What is Founder-Inspired Culture?

By | July 11, 2016

Throughout my entire career, I have tried to influence company culture.

In each of my jobs before starting Blue Kite, I would look for ways to improve employee morale and strengthen the bonds of our team.

At one company, I proposed group lunches in our conference room so we weren’t working through lunch alone at our desks.

In another organization, I recommended a summer schedule to give our burned out team the chance to have every other Friday afternoon off.

But, each of these recommendations fell on deaf ears and were never implemented.

Why?

Because they reflected my vision for what the culture should be instead of what mattered to the leaders of the organizations.

Not only did I lack the power or authority to implement these ideas, but I also failed to get the necessary buy-in from the founder or company leadership.

Why Founders Inspire Company Culture

Every company founder inspires the culture of the organization she creates – even if it’s unintentional.

You see, when a business is created, the founder sets the rules. The founder makes decisions that reflects his values and beliefs. Everything from how the phone is answered to the way orders are filled for customers can reflect what matters to the founder.

And while he might not have started the company with culture in mind, the founder launched his business to fulfill a vision. And that vision must be at the heart of what drives company culture.

The problem is that oftentimes, company culture is created by default instead of by design.

Although company founders may care about culture, they often lose sight of it as they focus on solving problems and growing the business.

The story of Bullhorn’s culture is a great example of this.

As the company grew, their culture got worse. They were more focused on building new products than focusing on their core offering. As a result, product quality slipped, customer support dwindled and long-time customers left.

When Bullhorn’s very first customer said she was jumping ship, the CEO recognized he had a problem.

So, he focused on getting back to the company’s original mission of creating an incredible customer experience. Everyone from the sales department to support team shifted their mindset to one of customer care.

And the result?

Since transforming their culture, Bullhorn’s growth rate has doubled and they’ve added 200 employees in the last year.

Definition of Founder-Inspired Culture

Bullhorn’s story proves that culture is driven from the vision of the founder. When the founder’s focus shifts, so does the culture.

That’s why when we help companies create or reboot their culture, we work with the founder.

Essentially, company culture is a mirror for the founder. A founder-inspired culture reflects her strengths, beliefs, values and personality. It’s the embodiment of her vision for the company and it represents why the company exists.

Essentially, founder-inspired culture gives companies the chance to create a culture that reflects the vision of the company’s creator – even if he is no longer there.

Apple is the most famous example of this. Even though Steve Jobs is gone, his legacy, vision and values live on through the company.

The key to this, of course, is to have a strong vision.

Most of the time, founders know what they want their company culture to be deep down. It’s just a matter of identifying the qualities and attributes that are important to them.

As a founder, it’s about getting back to your core “why” and remembering why you started the business in the first place. Unlocking your vision for the company is the key to creating an intentional, founder-inspired culture.

Founders Must Communicate Vision to the Team

Identifying the vision for your culture is a critical first step in creating a founder-inspired culture.

But, that’s not enough.

To truly create a founder-inspired culture, you must communicate your vision to the team.

And, it’s not something you can do one time in a sweeping town hall meeting. Casting the vision for your company must be something you do daily throughout your regular communication with your team.

We’ll be talking more about how to do this in the coming weeks. Got a question about how to communicate culture to your team? Leave a comment below and we’ll address it in our upcoming post.

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