Establishing your startup’s “culture”, while an elusive element of entrepreneurship, can be just as important in the beginning of your company as the funding you raise. It lays the foundation for where your team is headed and ensures that key stakeholders who’ve been a part of the journey from the beginning continue to see their efforts are having an impact. Building Feedback’s culture from the ground up has been one of my favourite parts of starting my own company, not to say that it isn’t serious business that requires a lot of effort, trial and error. Culture is very difficult to quantify – making it difficult to identify and address areas of improvement.
While we are still learning and adapting every day – one thing that has worked well for us at Feedback is making every non-technical (developers, accountants, lawyers) related employee start in our business development department.
The reasoning behind this decision has to do with the major benefits it’s had on Feedback’s culture. Let me elaborate:
1) Employees earn their stripes, which results in creating a culture of meritocracy.
When everyone starts at the same level, it creates a camaraderie and mutual understanding between the team. Plus, each employee intrinsically knows that no one was handed a role - they had to earn it by proving they had the required skill set to sell our technology. Starting as a BD means that everyone earns their stripes from the second they walk in the door – and we hope that it will continue to foster teamwork, mutual respect and equality.
2) Employees are pushed outside their comfort zones.
Working for a startup means there will likely be times you are asked to do something that might not be what you signed up for - you have to be willing to work beyond your comfort zone. Nothing pushes you outside of your comfort zone like walking the streets, and cold calling to sell a product. Whether your end objective is in marketing, operations, finance what have you,– it is important that you open to challenging yourself in new ways. There hasn’t been a single day in which I haven’t had to overcome a new challenge. It’s validation every time I find a solution and our employees learn that as well. It’s inevitable that some of our employees have desk jobs, but learning how to push yourself is invaluable and part of our startup's culture - our employees apply this principle to all aspects of their work and even personal lives.
3) Employees have no choice but to demonstrate ‘the hustle’.
In the start-up space, thick skin is not just an asset, it is required. There are going to be many ups and downs and there is no better way to prepare yourself than a door slamming in your face (figuratively and literally). We want people at Feedback to be those who have the perseverance to bounce back from setbacks – hearing “no” over and over is the quickest way to learn this.
4) Employees quickly understand our product
The fastest way to learn something is to try and teach it to someone else. The same principle applies to sales. To sell a product you have to intimately understand it as well as the market you’re selling to. here is no better way to get to know a product than by being in front of potential partners, getting grilled on the little nuances. If you can sell Feedback, we know you understand Feedback and the company’s value propositions… which leads to the last reason:
5) Employees Empathize with our partners
Restaurateurs have it tough. The average quick service restaurant in Canada made 4.9% profit margin last year…. And that was before the hike in minimum wage! Feedback is a mobile platform that aims to help restaurants run at full capacity throughout the day, offset fixed costs, and reduce their waste – but until you speak to 100 restaurateurs, it is hard to understand their pain points and how Feedback can help address them. We will never understand the restaurant industry as well as our partners, and so starting at Feedback by speaking to the people we created our product for is mandatory.
I would love to hear what you think. How do you ‘test’ new employees and hires? What skills and traits do you look for?
I’d love to hear from you at firstname.lastname@example.org.