Well, culture is a big word for any entrepreneur at any stage of his venture. Having been through the journey of entrepreneurship before more than a couple of times, I understand the true importance of laying the foundation right of the team, vision and the culture. I also consider myself extremely lucky that this time around we have been able to build a really fantastic team which is passionate about the problem that we are trying to solve. What also amazes me is the validation of something that I refer as ‘hail the underdog’ theory. Will write a detailed post on that later but in a nutshell it means that there are people out there who will go out of their way to achieve their dreams, prove their mettle (to themselves more than to anyone else) and do what they truly believe in. If the start up is lucky enough to be able to attract people like these, then it becomes a really formidable force.
But coming back to culture, when we were thinking about starting Orobind, we thought – what kind of company we want to be. What kind of products we want to roll out and what kind of people we truly want to work with. These are questions that most don’t think for a long time and by the time they do, it’s too late. The pond is already populated and the start up doesn’t feel like a place where you can spend majority of your time. Product releases are delayed, mediocrity becomes a norm and people hate each other. Emails after emails are sent – people prefer sending an email to their colleague sitting next to them – ‘cover your ass’ theory creeps in.
While answering these questions we realised one very important trait that we wanted to have in people working with us – aspiration to create an impact while having fun. Fun is such a crucial part in a start up’s journey & yet it keep getting missed. While we know how to judge the impact quotient but judging for fun is something which is difficult and takes a lot of effort. Everyone who has joined our team has gone through at least 4 rounds of gruelling pre screening interviews + 1 presentation + 1 case study + final interview with myself. This I believe is a very important step to ensure that only select few people get to be a part of our team. Also, if we have any doubt about anything (from as important aspect like talent,attitude to as trivial aspect like appearance, personality etc) we say ‘No’. And we say ‘No’ all the time.
A start up is very similar to a Sports team (not exactly a family) – hungry to succeed, talented, watching each other’s back and having fun while practicing. One very crucial thing with a great sports team is – they all are very hard to get into & the team weeds out the under performers to maintain their base line of quality. This is the primary reason for having so many rounds of interview – followed by an induction process so that there is a base level of expectation setting and also some context around what the idea is all about. Through this entire journey of recruitment, we pay close attention to the ‘fun’ quotient.
What is his/her work ethic – is it only play no work or no play and all work (both fail) ? Will he/she be cool to hang out with ? Is he/she a genuine person and will people love having him/her around or will his/her presence lead to those awkward silences?
While there are other really tough things that a start up has to deal with at a very early stage like achieving product market fit, sales, digital marketing and at time plainly surviving; but the aspect of culture should never be ignored. People you bring on board at an early stage decide how the start up will grow up. It’s almost like giving birth to a child – if you have good looking parents chances are they will give birth to good looking children & if you keep a child in good company – child will invariably become a good child. So spend that extra time hiring and identifying great players for your team.