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Tobias Häckermann, co-founder Sherpany, Swisspreneur Podcast
EP #123 - Tobias Häckermann: How Culture Makes Or Breaks A Startup

Tobias Häckermann (Sherpany)

January 14, 2021
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4:18 – Why is culture so important?
16:17 – How to establish a culture
21:39 – Hiring the right people for your culture
37:45 – When employees leave
41:53 – Rapid fire questions

The Episode in 60 seconds

Getting company culture right, according to Tobias Häckermann.

Common mistakes around company culture

  • Underestimating its importance: Your company vision makes sure everyone pulls on the same rope. The culture ensures everyone pulls in the same direction. Having a strong culture helps employees take good decisions without always referring to their managers for guidance, therefore making the company more efficient and agile.
  • Getting started too late: while a team of 5 might not need an explicit culture statement, it’s easy to miss the right moment to “get started with culture”. This is especially detrimental if you’ve already hired employees who are not a great cultural fit.

Finding and growing your culture

  • Company culture is the result of shared values. Most often, these will be the values of the founding team.
  • If you aren’t sure what your values are, a good place to start is by observing your feelings in your day to day business interactions. Do you get frustrated when someone doesn’t appreciate the work you do? Maybe appreciation is a value you hold dearly. Do you love to receive candid feedback from others? Maybe openness is important to you.
  • Once the founding team is aligned on their values, make them explicit and talk about them often. Base your decisions (particularly around hiring and firing) on these shared values.

Scaling culture

  • While you grow, it’s extremely important to stay true to your values and not to accept a culture misfit just because someone is good at their job and/or you struggle to find someone to replace them.
  • Everyone is responsible for nurturing company culture and calling out cultural incompatibility. Don’t outsource this important task to a “Chief Culture Officer” or similar.
  • Nobody is perfect and employees (and you as well) will sometimes fail to live up to your values. That’s okay, as long as you and the person in question clearly see the problem and a path towards improvement.

Measuring culture

  • While there is no “right” or “wrong” culture, there is culture that works and culture that doesn’t. A way to measure the “health” of your culture is via employee happiness and employee Net Promoter Score (NPS).
  • To add more color to the employee NPS, consider also measuring the number of employee referral hires you get. Referring a friend is a strong indicator of happiness and a well working culture.

Memorable Quotes

“Establishing a great company culture reduces the amount of time you need to spend handling internal affairs, and leaves that time free for actually helping your customers.”

“If your core team does not share your company values, then you’re never gonna establish a culture. Culture is established through behavior.”

If you would like to listen to more conversations on startup culture, check out our episodes with Cédric Waldburger and Markus Orkumus.

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