Every founder has their reason for starting a business. Some want to build an organization from the ground up; others want to make money. Still more weren’t even looking to found a company in the first place -- they only wanted to provide a solution for a problem they saw in the industry, and their resolution efforts snowballed into a profitable venture. Truthfully, the why behind the founding isn’t all that important; what is essential, though, is the role that a founder plays in shaping, guiding, and building their business into a high-performing organization.
Ultimately, the habits and practices of the founder of any business will mold the entire company in ways they may not even recognize at first. Here are four ways founders shape the culture their business adopts -- for better, and for worse.
They Set the Pace
Some founders are incurable workaholics. They put in long hours and come in on weekends; to them, a vacation is a time when you work remotely from a pool, rather than at your desk in the office. Others are more flexible -- they believe in maintaining a positive work-life balance and creating boundaries around their time. Whichever side of the fence a founder falls on, the behaviors they model will likely become the ones that their employees adopt.
Your employees won't do what you say; they will do what you do. This means that a founder needs to think critically about their chronic all-nighters, especially if they want their employees to feel comfortable taking time for themselves. Studies have shown that employees who take vacations and have a clear separation between their personal and working lives are ultimately more productive and engaged than those who work around the clock.
What you do matters. When you set your working pace, exemplify habits that not only work for you but are healthy for your employees and your company as a whole.
Their Values Become the Company’s Values
Culture emanates from the top of an organization. If a founder has a deep personal appreciation for sustainability and global impact, their company will most likely have priorities or policies that support the cause. If they value money above all else, pursuing financial growth will become one of their organization’s driving goals. Even the dress code of the office hinges on the founder’s preferences -- after all, the company is more likely to have dress-down Fridays and office dog policies if the founder isn’t overly concerned with formal professionalism.
Regardless of whether you know what your values are or not, they will inevitably become an indelible part of your company -- so make sure you know and understand what you do and do not stand for before you begin building your culture.
How You Treat Employees Shapes Your Customer Service
When founders first start a business, they typically serve as the first point of contact between their business and their customers. As their business grows, however, company leaders tend to become further and further removed from direct contact with customers. How a founder treats the managers directly under them will determine how they treat the employees directly under them, and so on, all the way down the line.
Happy employees are more engaged and tend to deliver better results, so if founders want their customers to be well taken care of, it is critical that they mind their employees’ engagement and satisfaction as well. In short, treat your most junior employee how you want your customers to be treated.
How You Deal With Mistakes Determines Growth Potential
The best founders recognize and acknowledge that more often than not, what we view as failure is actually an opportunity for growth. Take leadership at the online payroll-processing company SurePayroll as an example. Rather than solely highlight successes at the end of a season, company executives honor employees who make the “Best New Mistake” for the year.
They don't give an award for making the same mistake twice, but they do honor the pioneering spirit it takes to step out of the norm and try something new. When founders deal with failure by buck passing and finger pointing, they stifle innovation and create a stagnant culture.
As a founder, what you do and exemplify through your actions matters. All eyes are on you; don’t disappoint.