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August - 2010 - issue > Entrepreneur 101
Designing a Winning Organizational Culture
Gunjan Sinha
Sunday, August 1, 2010
It is critical for entrepreneurs to build an organizational culture which can help build enduring and successful companies. How do you think about the culture of your organization, and how do you shape the culture as you hire your employees and build the team. I feel, beyond the obvious elements of startup success, the organizational culture determines the winners from the losers. It filters out organizations that are indeed going to get the gold medal of success as they make their mark in their respective fields. Here are some key elements for designing the right organizational culture.

Sounds obvious, yet I can overstate the importance of building a high quality team. Team quality is not just determined by the resume of the people in the organizational, but it is more to do with how well are the various team-members selected, such that they have a strong role to play in their respective areas of competencies. If you start with a weak team, you are clearly at a disadvantage. So, it is important that from the inception of the startup, one is very focused about hiring the best team for the job. Remember, if you hired the best 100 people for your company, they will effortlessly attract others like themselves, and help you scale to the next thousand.

Open Culture: Embrace Partners and Suppliers

Winning CEO’s and entrepreneurs know the role of the partner and supplier ecosystems for their business. You rely not just on your own employees, but you embrace the carefully chosen and select set of partners and suppliers with whom you try and build long-term, mutually beneficial relationships. Right from the beginning, you have to instill an openness culture, where you treat your partners and suppliers with equal respect and value as you do to your own employees. A good example that I can site is from my own company Metricstream. We now have over 1000 Compliance experts who we regularly work with as partners and who are contributing significantly to the success of Metricstream. We were deliberate with this strategy right from the early days of the company.

Continuous Innovation culture
Startups succeed because they out innovate the established players in the market. It is critical that one sees innovation as a competency, as a process and as a continued effort. This is not just limited to your initial idea, or a piece of technology. Innovation has to span how you think about the very architecture of your organization. For example, at Metricstream we have innovated on how we create sales engagement with global customers, or we have innovated on brand marketing.

Culture of Teamwork, Trust and Transparency
Winning organizations are built on the foundations of Teamwork, trust and transparency. Employees work as teams; they trust each other and are transparent with data, information and know-how. This requires developing a culture, where people are secure about their contributions are and are fearless in trusting their team members, and being transparent.

Creating a strong Vision and persevering in its pursuit
It is important, that one articulates a strong vision of the market or the business early on. It is equally important, that one drives a persevering culture, where patience is rewarded, where failures are seen as opportunities of learning, and where there is maniacal focus on the pursuit of the vision. At Metricstream, we started early with the vision of helping the world better manage risks, compliance and governance. We have been completely focused on it for a decade now, despite, periods when markets were skeptical of our intent. At siliconIndia, we are trying to help build a “smarter” India, and a better India. This is a big and powerful vision, and our team at siliconindia is obsessed with this vision, regardless of how long it takes to get there.

Focus on your own competency, not competition
It is important that the organization is focused on raising its own competency. How do we become better with our products, with our go-to-market strategies, or with your sales capabilities? I rarely worry about the competition. Competition just represents a validation of the market need and an opportunity to learn from their experiences. As an entrepreneur, you want to strong focus on how to raise your competency, so the focus is inwards most of the time. At Apple, they are more worried about how to build a great iphone product, less on what Nokia is up to.

Managers as Coaches
As you develop your organizational culture, it is important that managers play a role of the coaches, where, they stand besides their team members (NOT in front of them!), and help them win in their endeavors. Managers create an environment, which fosters entrepreneurship and accountability at the same time. They let their team members learn by making mistakes, and taking charge. It is critical, that there is a high focus in the organization to create a supporting management culture, not a hierarchical management culture. Hierarchies are very hard on innovation, and startups with high protocols and hierarchies often fail to reach their true potential. This value must start at the top.

I personally, try to develop these organizational cultures in the businesses that I am involved. I certainly believe that, as a CEO or as an entrepreneur, one pays utmost importance to this aspect of your business.

The author is the Chairman of SiliconIndia.com and MetricStream
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