Be True to Yourself

This is for you new founders out there

As you create a company, you are creating a culture. Some of it purposeful, much of it occurs naturally. What you do early on with respect to the culture created has a gigantic impact on the company going forward.

Here's a key part of that that's rarely mentioned. You need to be true to yourself. As the (or a) founder, for better or worse, your instincts, your impulses, your values, will have a gigantic influence on the culture. You need to accept and embrace this.

If you don't do this. If your culture is an amalgamation of various beliefs from all the early employees, consultants, board members, good ideas in books, etc. what do you have? You have a schizophrenic culture with no soul. No anchor.

And fundamentally no consistent culture. Which means no real culture. And that means every employee is left unsure what the fundamentals are.

As the driving force creating a company, this is your responsibility. And in doing so, yes you're making clear choices about the culture everyone working there will live by. Your choices aren't necessarily better than anyone else's. But what's key is you listen to your gut as you decide what the culture will be. And that gives it consistency and a soul. And that is oh so critical.

This does not mean that all of the culture is what you would do on your own. Windward's culture included Do Your Damndest To Delight The Customer. That did not come from me. But when the first sales engineer was someone who would do anything to help customers (including answering tickets on his cell phone from the emergency room when he had gallstones), that struck me as a good value. So I embraced it.

It felt right.

On the flip side, at one point two of my executives objected to the "damndest" (it's swearing) and "delight" (what does that mean) and convinced me to change it to something bland. I think it was provide quality support to our customers. Yuck - any company can say that. And it felt wrong. I ended up changing it back. Because that's who we are. The support people, and the company as a whole, were emotionally invested in doing the best we could for our customers.

And no customer ever complained about that being our support mantra. Several said they liked it. What I liked about it is it is not professional - it's personal. That's better.

What matters is that what you build in your culture feels right to you. Listen to others, but then go with what is YOU. And it won't be for everyone. That's fine. But if someone is opposed to part of your culture, wish them luck and send them on their way because you've created something important in the culture and you need to have everyone accepting of it.

Believe in yourself. After all, you're the one that created the company and got it this far.