by Jo Geraghty and Derek Bishop

Growing the culture

One of the greatest challenges for any organisation is to maintain a strong entrepreneurial start-up culture once the business takes off. Particularly in the technology field, companies which start as a couple of friends kicking an idea around in a basement can suddenly find themselves with hundreds of employees. This rapid expansion can bring its own challenges. Ideas of company culture — how things are to be done — scarcely have time to form before they are being influenced by new employees. And rapid growth means that the culture can change so fast that, rather as with a computer virus, harmful elements can become embedded before anyone notices them.

Another side effect of rapid expansion is that in order to meet demand it is far more usual to outsource processes. This brings its own danger, as lack of time can mean that insufficient care is taken over indoctrinating the organisational culture into the outsourced companies. So, turnaround times can slip, mistakes creep in and high ideals of client service become a thing of the past.

The answer is to make sure that however rapid the expansion, time is taken to continuously embed the company ethos and culture within the organisation. This means leaders living and breathing the culture; it means hiring employees as much on their match to the culture as their ability, and it means taking time to work with outsourced suppliers so that they too embrace the desired culture. The ethos and the high ideals with which the business was founded need not necessarily be watered down, but it is important that time is taken on a regular basis to revisit the culture and ensure that the culture is still delivering strategy and values which will continue to bring business success.