My simple rule for culture match

Did you read my earlier post about the case Lyons vs. Hubspot? It’s such a perfect example to present when talking about my simple rule for culture match.

In case you didn’t, a couple of years ago Hubspot – the inbound marketing house – hired a 52 year old former journalist to a workplace with the average employee age just hitting the legal age to drink alcohol. Based on the book, I understood Hubspot wanted to incorporate diversity without understanding the consequence of going against your culture – especially if you practise a really strong culture.

The Hubspot culture is defined (in the book) as a frathouse culture – something probably a lot of us would have enjoyed when we were young and free, without a worry in the world. I know I did. I spent some good years in a company like that and I loved every minute of it! It was a fantastic workplace with a lot of camaraderie and very high density of togetherness in an environment where highly driven and ambitious people are celebrated.

It worked for me until I had a baby.  Family responsibilities do not fit very well with the frathouse culture. The lesson in this story is, the culture does make a difference and who ever thinks it won’t, your ignorance will bite you in the ass. Probably already did and you’re still wondering what that was.

Solid culture (aligned with the business goals and strategy) is like a good quality oil in your business system. The lousy attempt to change something that works – pour the wrong type of oil into your system – breaks it and is a stupid leadership mistake. And the consequences of that are well documented in Dan Lyons’ book. Even though diversity is a good thing, it’s not an excuse for stupidity – and it’s really not about the age only.

Word of advice: Pay attention to the culture match

If you are a growth entrepreneur and have employees or plan to hire employees, do pay attention to the culture match. That’s my advice for you.

There are so many traps where you can fall as an entrepreneur. Try not to fall on this one. When you hire people, you must hire people who add value to you and bring you more than they take from you. A person who cannot identify themselves with your company culture will not want to add value to your business – no matter how talented and experienced they are. This has nothing to do with talent and everything to do with the motivation of using that talent in your company for your mission and purpose.

Leadership is a different job as an entrepreneur

When comparing my career before becoming an entrepreneur and as an entrepreneur I’ve realized how crucial it is to hire only people who truly add value and have a great attitude. Leading employees as a hired manager is totally different to leading employees as an early stage entrepreneur.

When you are building a business from zero, for a long time your life is very unstable by all accounts. You work relentlessly 7 days a week, most likely at least 12 hours each day. Some nights you are wide awake worrying about making the ends meet financially. You are the decision maker, the janitor, the marketing person, the sales guy, the financial controller and the supervisor. It’s you who fixes the network connections, goes to buy toilet paper and convinces new customers to buy from you. The last thing you need is to pay someone to put obstacles on your way you did not have before you hired them. After a sensible induction period, your people must add value, must help you, not add to your load.

@rantanensusanna quote on culture and entrepreneurship

It took me a long time to understand that leading people as an entrepreneur of a small growth business is just very different. I’ve been struggling with trying to be the perfect leader, but not getting there, because of the endless array of tasks and responsibilities and never having enough time. I’ve found those employees that are the true problem solvers a real value. I have those and I could not do this without them. They get things done before I even realize to ask for something, and their help and value extends way beyond their job descriptions. One of my gems once said to me she wants and will do anything to make my life easier. I did not hire her to be my assistant, she is a professional project managing customer cases. I hired her directly from school with an amazing attitude and passion for my mission, So this is what I mean with hiring people who add value and not just those who have a job history. It truly makes a difference. I’d do anything for her.

How do you know what is the right culture?

If you’re like me, an entrepreneur growing your company step by step, culture is you – your personality, your attitude, your values and beliefs as long as you are in charge. There’s no way around it. It’s you who sets the example of what is accepted and what not. It’s what you appreciate and respect, but also what you cannot stand in the behavior of other people. Simple as that. That’s the natural formation of a company culture.

In time, (if you keep reading my blog and listening to my thoughts and experiences) you’ll come to notice you probably should think about your business goals and direction when you develop your culture. This will help you to figure out when it’s time for you to step away or even out to give your business a chance, or start hiring other types of people to match your strategic needs.

Culture evolves

The business size also matters. Hubspot is a large company. Hiring for the culture becomes more and more difficult when you have layers of decision makers in the area of recruitment. That’s why it is so important to consistently develop your company culture from the start, hire people that match your company culture and be especially cautious about this when you hire people to decision making roles. These people either support the culture you’ve carefully built or they will ruin it.

Your culture will not stay the same over time. Company culture and your personal leadership culture evolves as your company grows and as you grow as an entrepreneur. It evolves as the people who work for you grow as professionals and human beings. Needs reform over time. You gotta pay attention to that.

Culture is many things – there is no one specification what culture is, but you get the closest to what culture is when you think if it as the behavior of your company required to keep your business rollin. Think of culture as the framework for success.

My simple rule for culture match

My simple rule for culture match for you my friend, is this: always hire people who you can imagine sitting next to over a beer or two talking one on one. No one else around, just you and this person. No other activities you can focus on, just your beers and your discussion. Entertain this thought when you are hiring someone. Because leadership is more than anything caring about your employees as human beings, wanting to spend time with them, listening to what they tell you, getting to know about them to understand their actions and values better in order to help them to help you to succeed as an entrepreneur. If the thought of having to invest your most valuable asset – the little free time you have, the time when you could and should be with your family – to this person does not interest you a one bit – then my advice is, do not hire this person.

You must truly be interested in the people you select to chase your mission. You must truly love them.

If you don’t, you will never give them a chance in hell to succeed. If you cannot picture spending your super valuable little free time with a person who works for you, it’s not going to work for you. You must truly love them as human beings. That’s the only way.

If you don’t, when the shit eventually hits the fan – as it will because it’s super hard to build a successful company from scratch – you will have no interest to help that person to succeed, to give that person another chance when they’ve let you down (because they will, it’s just a job for them), you will not turn your other cheek to them after they slapped you on your face unless you love them.

So remember my simple rule for culture match: you must only hire people you are curious about and interested in enough to envision you to invest your most valuable asset, your free time to this person after working hours. If you cannot envision this, don’t hire the person. The minute the shit hits the fan you will not help a person you do not love.  Love is the key. That’s my simple rule for culture match as an entrepreneur.

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