Important Note: The purpose of this post is to discuss the importance of culture fit between employer and employee and use a personal example of why I was not a good fit at a company as a timely example. This article is not intended to bash TourWrist or disparage them in any way. I wish them the best and still have good friends working there who I continue to cheer on in their endeavors.
If you’ve been paying attention to the startup world over the last few years, you are very familiar with the emphasis on company culture. 37 Signals and Zappos might be two of the most famous companies for stressing the concept, but many of the successful startups have discussed the importance and purposefulness of it as well.
When you think about company culture, you might think about the way the office is designed, the clothes people wear to work, the benefits provided, and the company mission statement for dealing with customers and employees. But what you don’t often hear about are all the other pieces that I believe come together to form the company culture.
Every element that impacts an employee during their work day influences the culture. From where they park in the morning, to the chair they sit in, the computer and software they use, the temperature in the office, any music played in the office, the colors in the room, the bathrooms, the location and commute, what employees do for lunch, expected work hours and the way they are enforced…all of these items impact the employees emotional mood. Their emotional mood directly determines how happy and productive they will be. These items make up the aesthetics of the company culture, the ambience, and they have an effect on how well an employee can perform over a period of time.
Even more important is your company’s project methodology. How are you organized and how do you communicate with your team? Do you only give the team the tasks they can handle at that moment, or do you give the team a list of the next several month’s tasks? Do you include the team on business direction and strategy planning, or fill them in once a decision is being made? Are the developers given long periods of focus time to develop, creatives to create, designers to design, or do you ask them to frequently change directions, and multitask? Do they have to work in an environment of constant interaction and interruption? Additionally, do you trust your employees and in doing so treat them like you believe they can and will do the expected job? Do you build a relationship with them, or stay more removed? All these variations come together to form the overall company culture.
In my 15+ years in IT, I’ve worked in about every variation of culture imaginable. Some have worked for me, some haven’t. I know what works best for me; what allows me to reach my fullest productivity levels. For me, being fully productive at work is what brings me happiness and the stamina, energy, and passion to work every day at my full potential, and deal with the difficulties that will always arise in any tech company or startup. It’s what allows me to not just crank out widgets, but think creatively and solve problems in a way that best helps the company achieve its goals. If the company culture isn’t a fit, then I can’t perform at my best, which means I can’t maintain productivity levels; stress rises, happiness fades, and my uncomfortableness with the situation will cause bigger problems in the company.
You can try and change a culture, but if you aren’t at the top, that’s nearly impossible to do. The culture will be set by the company visionary, even if unintentionally. And that is another important point I want to stress. If you are the company leader, and visionary, please be sure that you have put thought into all of these elements and your company culture is a result of planning and not an accident. If it’s an accident, you probably aren’t even aware of what it is, nor able to communicate it to prospective employees. Which means you’ll have a much higher turnover rate. Even if you are only hiring experienced and highly skilled people, if they aren’t a match for your culture, they will either leave, or, drag down the entire team.
I’ve often advised companies that they can get away with paying less than the top rates if their company culture is a good one and if they hire to match the company culture. It’s difficult for an employee to leave a culture they love for any kind of pay raise. However, it doesn’t take much encouragement to leave a company whose culture isn’t working for you, even for a pay cut.
Company culture is why I have decided to step down from CTO at Tour Wrist and move on to other things. It’s not that the culture at Tour Wrist is “wrong”, simply that it’s not the culture in which I work best and in which I am able to be my fully productive and creative self. As a result, Tour Wrist isn’t getting what they need out of me either.
Even worse, as CTO I am more likely to hire people that I work best with, who also aren’t going to fit in with the company culture. I realized this was not good for the company and its future. I didn’t want to be an obstacle to their growth and for that reason have decided to move on to other opportunities and allow them to fill my position with someone who is a better fit.
As with all experiences, I learned more about business and myself and so I have no regrets. I am most appreciative to Tour Wrist for hiring me and giving me the opportunity. I enjoyed working with the highly talented team and wish them all well. Keep an eye on all of them and the Tour Wrist platform for all the things they have in the works.
As for me, stayed tuned for my next announcement of what I’ll be moving on to. The saga continues…