Imagine you came up with a great idea for a business. You wrote a business plan, you secured the funding, and you rented a space to set up shop. The furniture started to arrive, the phones were set in place, and Apple products graced the desktops. You even managed to come up with a cool logo and fancy signage to dress the front door. The next thing you needed to do was hire some help. Where would you start to look? Friends, past colleagues, Twitter, Facebook, post on job boards, hire a recruiting firm? And what will you be looking for — knowledge, skills, talent?
Did you know that your first hire will start to define your company’s culture? That’s right, hire number one. That person will have a direct impact on the culture of your organization. I have a couple friends who started a business 10 years ago. The two guys were partners and needed to hire their first employee. Through previous relations, they were introduced to a young woman named Melissa. Chad, Clint and Melissa were now “the company.” The wheels of culture creation were set in motion. I came to know these guys six years into their journey. It was clear that Melissa was their living, breathing, walking mascot. Anytime I had a conversation with Melissa, I walked away with a better understanding of the company’s culture. Not because she rattled off some marketing pitch; no, because she lived the company values. As the first hire, she was carrying out the founder’s vision.
As your company grows you will need to hire more people to expand your business leading to a team of multiple employees. How will that influence your new company’s culture? According to Dan Beckham, president of The Beckham Company, “You get culture for free whenever a few people gather to do something with some regularity. Culture emerges like body heat without the least bit of facilitation and intent.”
Did you catch that? You get culture for free, but don’t mistake that to say that it does not require effort. A culture created without effort (strategy) can end up being something totally contrary to the vision you have as a leader.
If you look at some of the most famous business cultures out there, Google, Zappos, Apple, what you will find in common is strategy. That strategy to formulate a culture representative of the leader’s vision is not haphazard. It is well planned, nurtured, and measured. As a leader, you must be able to articulate your purpose in a way that others want to rally around it. Culture is important because it ultimately determines your company’s success or failure. This culture creation starts with employee number one, and carries through each and every hire.
According to research conducted by RoundPegg, a culture management company, only 17 percent of an employee’s success is attributed to his or her skills, and the other 83 percent is directly related to how they fit into your company’s culture. Creating and sustaining the culture you want for your organization has to start with the hiring process. My mom used to say “One bad apple can ruin the whole bunch.” As a kid, I did not quite understand what she was saying. After leading many large groups of people over the years, I can attest to Mom’s wisdom. One bad cultural fit can upset the entire team.
So whether you are starting a new company, a new department, or taking over a well-established team, you have an obligation to be intentional about the culture you want to have. The level of success you will be able to achieve is directly attributed to the culture you are able to influence.