What Are the Best Practices for Building A Strong Team Culture in A Startup Environment?

Here is a short list, but there are many more things which come only from experience and feel interviewing. This is why it is best to have at least 15 years' professional experience before starting a company.

  1. Hire the best people you can afford, using stock options to find the ones that really care about the mission and will take submarket salaries to be on the mission.
  2. You need 3 key founders: Operator, visionary and sales/marketing head. All with 15 years' experience and long-term commitment. Ideally, willing to put in some cash too.
  3. CEO should screen first 100+ employees personally to set the culture well. Maintain a flat organization as long as possible, often until you have 15 employees, to avoid politics and have strong communications. All startups are a learning experience and need to adjust and pivot.
  4. We call the ideal culture a Darwinian Meritocracy(TM). It evolves with all inside and outside factors (agile, reorgs) and rewards results, honesty, shared values, hard work and mutual trust and support of other team members. And ejects anyone that cannot commit to total accountability, ownership of results and a collaborative management style.
  5. Hire slow and fire fast. Interview people 2–3 times with 3–5 people. Test for skills and personality. Do not hire any novices, as startups cannot be a training ground for low-level people.
  6. Find people that are believers in the mission. And love the work. They are the ones that will work the overtime needed and will generate the rewards later for a nice exit for the entire team.
  7. Reject all DEI, wokeness and other such nonsense. Companies are not democracies and exist only to deliver value to customers, not balance the world. Hire based only on merit. Nothing else should count. Fire anyone who believes otherwise and let them screw up your competitors instead.
  8. Use Top grading methods, reading Brad Smart’s book (see attached).
  9. Always write a job description and review internally before hiring anyone. Have discipline in the process of hiring and organizational design. People tend to hire people they like, not ones that are most competent for the job. Personality counts but does not override competence.

Register for a free workshop on growing companies at: https://airtightgrowth.com/growth-and-scaling-workshop/ This monthly event is for CEOs at $1M plus companies and those preparing to scale in the years to come. It is held on the first Wednesday of each month and replays are sent to registrants. All twelve sessions are available for a fee, with recording for your entire management team. And get lots of free resources for startups under $1M annual sales at www.EntrepreneurshipU.com. We help companies get to $10M, then $100M in sales after product-market fit is achieved by installing everything needed to scale. See www.AirTightGrowth.com 

Bob Norton is a long-time Serial Entrepreneur and CEO with four exits that returned over $1 billion to investors. He has trained, coached and advised over 1,000 CEOs since 2002. And is Founder of The CEO Boot Camp™ and Entrepreneurship University™. Mr. Norton works with companies to triple their chances of success in launching new companies and products. He helps established companies scale faster using the six AirTight Management™ systems. And helps companies raise capital.

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