Recently there was a local debate around the importance of corporate culture in the earliest days of seed stage startups. From the debate, there was contention about whether or not a focus on culture at the start was important before the business had many employees and was viable. Put another way, should you spend any time on culture when it could be spent acquiring customers?
My answer: absolutely, culture matters from the beginning. Culture is more than just the founders and people hired. Yes, the people are the most important part, but culture is reflected in the core values, processes, and the way the company chooses to act. The same exact team with different core values, assuming the values are truly cared about, will act differently because the priorities are different.
The culture won’t last long if the startup goes out of business but it also won’t be nearly as fun if things are successful and the culture isn’t strong and cohesive. Culture also sets the tone and foundation for the future of the startup. Entrepreneurs should be intentional about culture from the beginning while not using it as a crutch to avoid working on the hard problems to build a sustainable business. As with anything, there’s a balance between working on the business vs in the business.
What else? What are your thoughts on focusing on culture first or finding customers first?