16 Top Tips For Building Company Culture From Scratch

When you first get started on a business, there are a lot of elements to consider, not least of all the direction you want your business to grow into. Setting the guidance and motivation for a company helps to define the organization’s culture — a core factor in how the business and its employees will function.

Developing a culture that aligns with the business’s mission and vision starts from the day the enterprise goes into operation. New entrepreneurs who want to grasp how to develop a company’s culture from scratch most effectively can rely on these 16 members of Forbes Coaches Council as they share their expertise gained from starting their own companies.

Members offer advice for building a brand-new company culture from the ground up.

1. Look In The Mirror

An acute and accurate awareness of yourself, starting with your weak spots, can inform your culture-building path. Do you try to control others when you’re stressed? Do you avoid difficult conversations? Imagine your worst qualities amplified in a group of people because you inadvertently normalize behaviors that have tripped you up. Your leadership needs to be the picture of the ideal culture. – Mia Eng, Cognascent Inc.

2. Stay True To Your Vibe

Starting your own business means you have the opportunity to do things your way. This is your chance to create a thriving company culture that aligns with your leadership style, not someone else’s. So my advice is to be authentically true to who you are and how you want to lead. Your vibe will attract the right employees that value the work you do and the impactful culture you’re building. – Nicole Nieves, The Brand Vibe

3. Build It Around Respect

There are many aspects to a strong organizational culture and if you build it around “respect” for each other as individuals and professionals, it becomes much easier to meet the challenges of company growth and those monumental crisis situations that require trust and cohesiveness to see them through. This creates safety, allowing for open dialogue, honest feedback and creativity. – Lisa Marie Platske, Upside Thinking, Inc.

4. Be The Culture

There’s a quick and simple answer to that: As a leader, you don’t work in a culture, you are the culture. As the organization is growing, you are under constant observation. People take you as a reference. So watch what you are saying, what you are doing and how you are doing it. Being a role model of the culture you want to see in your organization is the most powerful tool you have. – Thomas Gelmi, Movadis GmbH

5. Create A Culture Playbook

Culture playbooks set the tone, capture the tone, continue the tone of what right looks like inside of your company walls. What you and they think, believe, do, say, see and hear around your vision, your mission, your value statements and, of course, your culture statement. Capturing it in writing, on videos and in pictures from every team member joining along the way keeps the culture guardrails on. – Shelley Smith, Premier Rapport

6. Be Clear About Your ‘Why’

Leaders will be measured on one thing alone: culture. Entrepreneurs move so quickly to the “doing,” they rarely stop in the early days to make sure everyone is clear on the “why.” Carve out time each week to share with the team “why” decisions were made, systems were created, and what’s coming up next and why it matters. Tell your story often. – Cheryl Procter-Rogers, A Step Ahead Consulting and Coaching

7. Define Your Wants And Needs

Defining your wants and needs is by far the most significant step that should supersede any other. Without a clear outline of the “what, when and how,” every other action taken is either meaningless or destined to fail. This should be followed by leading by example — don’t ask your team to do something you wouldn’t do yourselves. – Kamyar Shah, World Consulting Group

8. Show, Don’t Tell

Follow the principle of “show them, don’t tell them.” Don’t tell your employees that you value diversity, hire diverse talent. Don’t tell staff you value their health, give them flexible working hours. Don’t say you have a feedback culture, have the tough conversations. Culture is expressed, not mandated. Walk the talk. – Sundae Schneider-Bean, Sundae Schneider-Bean GmbH

9. Identify Key Values

Culture is grounded on values. In setting a new culture, I would deliberately talk to clients and employees on what we have stood for in the past, what has made us unique and has led to predictable behaviors that lead to results. This can bring to the surface the actual values and culture that are rooted in the company, and we would then add other key values needed to build the future. – Maria Camila Vargas, Kite Group

10. Build Your Values In An Unorthodox Way

I use an unorthodox approach to culture which is very effective. Look at all the activities and behaviors you don’t want to see in your company and turn them into values for your team to follow, e.g. if your team not calling people back is an issue, build “we always get back to our clients” into your values and display this for all to see and watch the changes happen as your team naturally conform. – Adam Stott, Big Business Events LTD

11. Hire People Smarter Than You

Someone once said that the smart entrepreneur hires people smarter than themselves, and if they actually do it then they are really smarter than them! Steve Jobs notoriously believed that if you’re hiring smart people why would you want to get in their way? Your first hires will create the culture of either being a great place to work at or not. Be very selective! – Jacob M. Engel, Yeda LLC

12. Get Your Team To Think Big-Picture

For me, company culture is directly linked to your business values and personal meaning. Your company will only ever be as good as the people in it. They are your soldiers on the front line. The best way to build company culture from the ground up is to act in alignment with core values, both personally and professionally, and to make sure each staff member is acting in alignment, too. – Rachel Kelly, Rachel Kelly

13. Focus On Events And Experiences

Much of the culture of a company is formed by events and experiences. What leaders do to address critical issues or unexpected occurrences will help develop a culture more than anything you will say or write. When you are in the startup mode, be fully aware of what is happening and how you will address the issue(s) in both the short- and long-term. By doing this you will develop your culture. – Dan Ryan, ryan partners

14. Cultivate Connection With Your Team

Regardless of the size of your team, you can develop a strong culture within your business by building intentional relationships with them. Ask yourself how can you create deeper connections with those on your team? What common values do you share and how can you work together toward a common mission you are all passionate about? – Jenna Faye Madden, Soul Meets Strategy®

15. Create Mutuality For Team Members

When creating a workplace culture, it is important that you and your team members share a mutual purpose and an understanding that you are both working toward a common goal. This type of mutuality (the sharing of a common feeling or purpose) will help to create trust and will establish a healthy climate for discussion and improvement so effective collaboration and teamwork can take place. – G. Riley Mills, Pinnacle Performance Company

16. Establish Where The Buck Stops

Consciously articulating who has the power to make which decisions and the process for how they are made is clutch to company culture-building from the get-go. If the initial team is small, any preexisting power dynamics should be explicitly reviewed. Often, some tweaking is necessary to ensure transparency and break habits. This will ensure future team members don’t walk into an unclear structure. – Katharine Millonzi, Millonzi Consulting


Screen Shot 2020-07-21 at 2.31.03 AM.png


April 28, 2021