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Start-up tips: How to build a winning culture

By Desh Deshpande.
July 28, 2016 14:42 IST
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If you don’t design a winning culture, a culture will get created by default. And, most often than not, it’s not pretty, says well-known Indian American venture capitalist, Desh Deshpande.

Heading for success

‘To win in the marketplace, you have to win in the workplace first.’ Doug Conant, Campbell Soup

Corporate culture is generally defined as the pervasive values, beliefs and attitudes that characterise a company and guide its practices.

While culture operates in an invisible fashion, its influence in producing results (good and bad) is unquestionable.

Building a winning culture should be a priority for all leaders -- irrespective of the size of the company they are leading. If they don’t design it well, a culture will get created by default. Most often, the culture that gets created by default is not pretty.

Here are three elements of building a winning start-up culture.

Egoless: Let me warn you that this is easier said than done.

You have to create an environment where ideas don’t have authorship and people love solving problems without worrying about who solved the problems.

In reality, we all know that it takes more than one person to solve a problem.

This kind of a mindset will automatically make the work environment fun and rewarding.

A side benefit of this is that nobody will continue to defend and pursue a mediocre idea.

Cohesive: A start-up is like a team of people in a canoe. A canoe moves and gains speed only when everyone is working in cohesion.

Granted, this involves making certain compromises such as striking the right balance between ‘quality’ and ‘time to market’.

Once a decision has been made, whether everyone fully buys into it or not, they have to support the team.

Without cohesion, there will be lot of activity but not much productivity.

Following the canoe analogy, without everyone rowing in the same direction, the canoe simply treads water and never gains speed.

Listening: It is common for start-ups to change direction based on marketplace feedback.

This feedback can come from customers or prospects or from one or more initiatives from the competition.

You can change direction ONLY if you and your team are ‘listening’ to feedback without being biased. You will face an uphill task in making progress if you are not open and willing to change in the face of feedback.

Most importantly, leaders have to set the right tone for the culture with their actions instead of simply talking about the need for a better culture. Building a winning culture should be a priority for all leaders -- irrespective of the size of the company they are leading.

Excerpted from On Entrepreneurship And Impact by Desh Deshpande, with the permission of the publishers, Bloomsbury India. You can buy a copy of the book here.

Photograph: Chris Potter-StockMonkeys.com/Creative Commons.

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Desh Deshpande.