Every great startup -- the ones that become the Gorilla of their jungle -- have CEOs who are passionate about "company culture".
Company culture is so important to serial entrepreneurs that they would rather skip hiring a skilled person if that individual did not fit the company culture.
The startup veterans have learned life is too short to try to do a startup with a lot of people who fight the company culture day after day after day. Every Monday becomes a day to dread and Friday cannot come too soon.
So today I found a real example for you to think about from the Lessons Learned column in Business Investors Daily, Monday, April 30, 2012. A serial entrepreneur says it like it is, in this, his story:
A Tech Entrepreneur Hires People Who Fit The Culture
By MOREY STETTNER Posted 04/27/2012 03:39 PM ET
Entrepreneurs often dream of building a business and selling it for a fortune. Tony Hsieh lived the dream, but it didn't unfold as planned.
Within a year after graduating Harvard in 1995, he co-founded a Web advertising firm called LinkExchange. With Hsieh as chief executive, the startup grew quickly and attracted a large following. In 1998, Microsoft bought LinkExchange for $265 million.
"The real reason we sold the company, which most people don't know, is it was not a fun place to work anymore," said Hsieh, now chief executive of Zappos.com, an online retailer based in Henderson, Nev. "The company culture went downhill. I dreaded getting out of bed to go to my own company."
An early investor in Zappos.com, Hsieh joined the fledgling firm in 2000 as co-CEO. After nearly a decade of fast growth, Hsieh and his team sold the company to Amazon.com (AMZN) for about $1.2 billion.
Unlike his earlier experience selling LinkExchange, Hsieh pursued the Amazon deal with an eye toward preserving the vibrant culture that he and his colleagues had worked to create. The culture remains intact post-acquisition.
Reflecting on his LinkExchange experience, Hsieh admits that he overlooked the importance of fostering esprit de corps as the startup rapidly hit its stride. Managers recruited candidates with technical qualifications but who lacked the right "fun" personality.
"The culture was great at first when we hired friends and friends of friends," recalled Hsieh, author of "Delivering Happiness." "But once we exceeded 15 or 20 people and we had to hire people through resumes and interviews, things changed."
Newcomers didn't necessarily share the same attitudes as the core group who launched the company. Morale started to suffer.
"I should have been more careful about company culture and made sure everyone understood it can go away at the drop of a hat," Hsieh said. "It's easy to take for granted, but over time there's death by 1,000 paper cuts."
At Zappos.com, Hsieh vowed not to repeat his mistake. He says that maintaining the right culture "is the No. 1 priority of the company," and he hires people who embody the organization's values.
Candidates undergo two sets of interviews: one with a manager who assesses their technical prowess and one with a human-resources representative who evaluates cultural fit. Zappos.com has about 4,700 employees. In 2011, the firm hired approximately 1% of its 25,000 job applicants, Hsieh says.
"As long as we hire people whose personal values match our corporate values, you don't need to tell them how to behave," Hsieh added. "They can just be themselves."
BOTTOM LINE: Founder CEOs who want to build great startups will spend huge efforts to build great company cultures. Serial entrepreneurs make that one of their top priorities. They will not hire people who don't fit the company culture, regardless of how smart and talented the candidate is. When you live by that policy, your startup will grow with extra strength, speed and efficiency. Life will be worth living, not hellish. It is part of what makes serial entrepreneurs so successful, it is key to their building an unfair competitive advantage. Learn that and your startup will increase its likelihood of joining their successes.
I wish you The Best on your Adventure!