Corporate Culture–Creating and Cultivating Company “Charisma”

cultivate culture

When you think of a start-up’s corporate culture, think of it as a company’s “special something” — that charismatic vibe…that “cool” factor  – that sets a company apart as a unique and special work place.

The development of a company culture begins at a business venture’s inception, ready or not.  From Day 1 — as “chief bottle washer”–“lead visionary” — “head honcho” — each decision you make, each person you hire, each success you deliver contributes to the development of your corporate culture.  It’s an organic process; not a calculated/manufactured one.

Ivy Exec’s culture began evolving the day I threw my never ending business plan away and got down to business building Ivy Exec from my Soho loft’s dining room table.

Here are the key elements that define Ivy Exec’s culture today:

Communication and teamwork: As I built the company, I valued the open communication and teamwork fostered by “togetherness” at my old dining table.  So, even though we outgrew my loft space long ago, we still all sit around a table (albeit a much larger one) sharing ideas, brainstorming and problem solving together. (OK… so the foosball table’s a new addition…but work still happens in much the same way.)  A company’s success is not about the “you” or the “me.” The operative word here is — “we.”   And the “we” only works if it’s based on mutual respect and uniform belief in a shared vision.

Hard work with results:  Our culture is not just about working hard.  It’s about working hard and delivering quantifiable results. It’s about constantly prioritizing our work so our efforts are expended on projects that will deliver the biggest “bang.”  Our hard work has to move the needle, or it’s just so much wasted effort.  Quantified results make it easier to identify the essential next steps and hone targets along the way.

Celebration of success: Each time we successfully close a sale, the person responsible for the sale strikes “The Gong.””  When we successfully deliver a significant project, the project leader also has the honor of striking “The Gong.”  And the rest of the office cheers. Sound “cheesy?”  Well it’s not.  It is a celebration of the delivery of tangible, quantifiable results for the company. (A “Gong” day is a good day!) We celebrate everything – promotions, birthdays, weddings, babies, summer’s arrival, and the holidays.  Nothing passes by without some kind of acknowledgement – however small.  The office favorite is a specialty cake from around the corner (with fruit on the side for my right hand because he’s “junk food-phobic.”)

Taking care of the little things with some fun along the way: Friday is office clean-up day.  Everyone tears their eyes from their screens for twenty minutes or so and pitches in to spruce up the office.  On a recent Friday we painted one of the walls with special whiteboard paint.  The wall’s become brainstorming central for the team.  We track the office foosball league standings and quotable quotes on whiteboards, too. (Office bets on the arrival date and time of my second child were a recently featured whiteboard item.)

However, the most important thing for a strong corporate culture is a shared vision — of what the company is and will be — that is clearly understood and embraced by the entire team.  It is the shared belief in the company’s vision that makes people go the extra mile on a project when no one is looking…that makes someone take an hour out of their day to help set up a new employee so the employee can be productive quickly…that causes people to step up to the plate and deliver their best effort, day in and day out, whether they get a pat on the back, or not.  This shared vision is the “glue” that binds all the other cultural factors – big and small — into a cohesive whole, and keeps the team focused and moving forward with purpose, against all odds.

About the Author

Elena Bajic is the founder and CEO of Ivy Exec, a selective online career network for top performers.