Culture is hard to get right... 9 lessons learned from interviewing CEOs of high-growth tech compani

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Over the past month 6 weeks I have published seven blog posts and it's been a truly fascinating experience. Talking to the CEOs and getting a better understanding of what they do to build their CulturalDNA has been an absolute joy and although I am not the worlds most naturally gifted writer (it's bloody hard work this writing malarkey) I am looking forward to the upcoming interviews that I have lined up.

So far I have interviewed CEOs like Alicia from Skimlinks, Rob for CharlieHR, Rikke from BorrowMyDoggy, Pedro from, Paul from Duel, Misha from FATMAP and Adam from Cronofy. Each one has their own way of leading their business and building their culture, and in the interviews they have shared some great ideas, hacks and tips on how they surface, define, embed and reinforce the values and culture of their businesses. The people who have hunkered down and read the lengthy blogs have told me that the content is worth the investment.

For the time poor or ADHD inflicted, her is a 9 point summary of some of the lessons learned so far:

  1. Defining company culture is not easy because culture evolves organically, whether you like it or not, and for the most part happens subconsciously and invisibly.

  2. Transitioning from a somewhat chaotic early stage start-up - where everyone pitches in wherever they can - to being a more accountable, structured and process driven company is hard to do. You must unfortunately be prepared to lose some of the original team who may not be suited to the new adapted culture that's required to scale a business.

  3. The stage of the business where the CEO starts to think seriously about defining the company’s CulturalDNA is:

  4. "As soon as we founded the company"

  5. "Once we had hired our 5th employee"

  6. "Once we had hired our 8th employee"

  7. "After our team grew to 10"

  8. "Once we stopped being able to hire from within our personal networks"

  9. Unsurprisingly you can’t utilise values based hiring techniques if your values aren’t clearly defined.

  10. Embedding values deep into the business is a constant ongoing effort for the CEO and management team. Not everyone understands the difference between embedding behaviours and reinforcing tools. Like everything else in your business you need to work on it daily.

  11. Developing a catchy acronym helps make the values more memorable and helps to embed them into the company:

  12. #Skimlove for Skimlinks

  13. P.A.C.T. for CharlieHR

  14. T.E.A.C.H. for busuu

  15. Company culture is an extension of the co-founder or CEO’s values and personality. Culture starts to evolve as soon as two founders or a small team come together to develop an idea.

  16. 'Second time around' founders really do understand the value and importance of building a strong CulturalDNA from early on in the lifecycle of the company. They learnt from the mistakes they made the first time round.

  17. As the business grows some companies hire Chief Happiness Officers, Culture Managers or build Culture Committees. At the end of the day the CEO of an early stage high growth company must lead and take final responsibility for the company's culture.