Post is part of my collection: EntreFEST 2015

Getting Team Culture Right From the Beginning

-- Michal Eynon-Lynch of Pear Deck

Culture is so extremely important in your organization yet it is something we forget about sometimes. We tend to care about sell sell sell and our customers (which is important, yes) but don't forget to take care of your team as well.

I am very new to the whole idea of "creating a culture" in a startup as previous startups I have operated was operated by just myself. I did not have to worry about a culture. Since January I have been working on a team now with many members and I am now responsible for making myself and everyone else excited to wake up every day and work with me. It is super super hard.

I am so glad Michal came to the rescue with such a great talk to us. First off, she conducted the whole talk with their Pear Deck presentation software which was the coolest thing in the world. I want so badly to give a talk using my own software solution...

A quick tip she started us off with: When others see in your organization see you work, they assume that is the way they should also work. The time you come in every day, how much time you spend on email, the amount of time you spend talking to customers, the way you dress and approach others, all come into play here.

Think to yourself, who is your ideal employee? Think about who this person is. Do they need 20 years experience? Certain licenses? Skills? Need to physically live here? Single/married?

Some ideas of traits I love to see in co-workers:

  • Life learners. Always jump on the opportunity to learn something new in the industry.
  • Positive talkers, positive attitude. We don't give up and we thank others.
  • Problem solvers. Don't take the easy way out and call it "good enough".
  • Open collaborator for the greater good. Gives and takes ideas with everyone to grow together.
  • Bloggers. People who share information with others.
  • Not greedy. Does not need the newest and fanciest tools to get a job done.

Think of qualities you get along with but also what you do not provide already so these people can offer that for you. Don't hire "the opposite" of you because they might not get along with you. Hire someone who "compliments" you.

What are your core values? Write down 4 of them. Try to focus on actual values and not behaviors or outcomes.

Here are some I wrote down for values I want to see in the team I work with...

  • We we want to build products that people love and voluntarily want to use.
  • We are helpful. Others (internal and external) know they can come to us for advice anytime and anywhere.
  • We are funny and make each other laugh but when it's time to think deep, we don't goof around to break concentration.

These values sound somewhat like behaviors or outcomes to me but for now, I will keep them there until I think of something better.

Some ideas of culture items I thought of:

  • Contribute to open source projects every single week for a given amount of time.
  • For every business win, the company donates to a non-profit organization.
  • Celebrate birthdays.
  • Send greeting cards to workers spouse on birthdays.
  • Pot lucks.

Great. Now that you have your values written down, think what would attract this person? What makes this person feel valued and satisfied?

Make 4 boxes on a piece of paper. Answer these questions respectively into each box.

  • What kind of boss is this person looking for?
    • Personality wise.
  • What makes them feel valued?
    • What things they need in work environment. Like most expensive computer?
  • What kind of career path are they looking for?
  • Other

Now the age long battle of individually efficient vs collaboration. What side of the spectrum do you want your employees? You decide what you feel is most important, but follow these exercises.

Take this line:

Individually efficient ----------------------------------------------|---------------------------------------------- Collaboration

Put a dot on the line where you want your company to operate.
Great. Now put a dot where your company is currently operating...

Think of ideas on ways you can make your organization more individually efficient or collaborative.

Here are some I thought about during the exercise...

Individually efficient:

  • Everyone knows at all times what to work on individually .
  • Turn off email/slack every day at a certain time company wide for a time period.
  • Company pays for Google Play Music, Spotify for all employees each month to encourage working alone.


  • Shared office space. No doors, one open room.
  • People can't be married to opinion.
  • Get people comfortable with each other quickly so they feel comfortable talking.
    • Every Wednesday company must go out to eat for lunch together
    • Play a video game every day during lunch time.
  • Give everyone a journal and encourage them to write in it every day before leaving the office to reflect on their day. What they learned, what they want to get better at.
  • Set aside time for everyone to blog. Then, time for people to share their blogs with talks weekly.

What was really cool about this session is that while I was working through the questions above that she asked all of us, I was thinking to myself, all of these things that I am writing down are all about the culture that I want to work in along with others working with me. This is the work environment that I am trying to create for myself. Am I currently doing all of these items? If these are the qualities I care about, then I need to do them for myself right now!

Thanks Michal!