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Leading with Culture: A Guide to Managing your Startup

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Startup culture” has become synonymous with flexible work schedules, happy hours, free lunches, and unlimited PTO.  

While no one can argue these are enticing perks, they don’t define the culture of a startup. Benefits alone won’t warrant the long hours, constant changes and rollercoaster of emotions that come with working at a startup. Instead, startup culture can be defined by three things:

  1. Innovation
  2. Communication; and
  3. Balance


Innovation doesn’t end after the first product release. And it won’t always start with leadership. Innovation needs to come from within the organization, from the employees. This starts with building the right environment.

Creating an environment where everyone is able to share their creative thoughts and ideas is critical to not only defining a company’s culture but also to allow for significant growth. 


Transparency and honesty are the pillars of a successful startup culture. Without consistent, open, and honest communication with the entire team, it becomes difficult to consistently achieve company wide goals and maintain team morale. 

There should be consistency within the team. Each person on the team needs to have the same achievable goal and be actively working together in reaching that goal. Allowing for transparency and honesty within the team allows for the team to communicate honestly about what they need to achieve these common goals. 


The working hours of a startup may not be the traditional 9-5. If handled incorrectly, those hours spent can create a strain between employees and leadership, despite working to achieve a common goal. 

Sometimes, people need a break. Recognizing an overworked employee is never easy, but necessary to maintain employee happiness. As soon as an employee at a startup no longer enjoys the daily grind, the entire culture falls apart. Maintaining balance is crucial to maintaining a positive startup culture. 

Running the perfect startup is impossible. However, leading with culture will result in highly motivated employees focused on the growth and success of the organization.

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