#CultureFirst: Co-Founder Edition



Rod Hamilton: Culture first for me is about being intentional about your culture. It's about recognizing that it starts there. I'm of the belief that every single person that joins a company or leaves a company, reorganizations or a restructure, winning certain new customers, all of these things actually have the potential to morph your culture in different ways. If you're not culture first or you're not intentional about it that means that you let culture happen to you.

I don't think it's about just throwing everyone together and just seeing what happens. It's about throwing people together and recognizing those differences and measuring how it impacts your culture and then getting everyone pulling in the same direction. I think being culture first is about how do you take that intentional aspect of how you want to build your culture and just have it permeate everything you do so that you don't just think about working on your culture as this extra curricular thing. How do you think about your values in every meeting you run? I think being culture first is about getting to that point where it becomes habitual working on your culture on a day-to-day basis.

Jason McPherson: It really does mean that we would make a decision that could lessen our revenue or lessen profit to prioritize something for our culture. That's what it means for me. Perhaps not all the time, but we would make key decisions with that being ranked higher.

Doug English: To me, culture first is about trying to say, "Well, as a company grows, the challenge is how, how do you make sure that as new people join that they can still feel that same excitement and same passion for contributing to something greater and working with great people." I think, it's really important to cultivate that culture from the very start and make sure it's maintained as the company grows. It gets harder and harder as companies get bigger and bigger.

Jon Williams: Culture first for me is that when you make decisions in the organization, you consider the culture of the organization as the driving force for making that decision. It doesn't necessarily mean you always make the best culture decision that there is, but that's the thing that you consider first and foremost in prioritization.

Didier Elzinga: Culture first means that culture comes first. It's a belief ultimately that for long-term success in an organization that you need to thing about the how the people and culture will work, be intentional and create a space that you can truly call your own, something that is the heart of everything that you're doing. It's a belief in that the world is changing in many ways. I like to say that back in 1938, Henry Ford said, "Why is it that when all I want is a pair of hands, I get a brain attached." So much of the world of work is based on that idea yet increasingly, we need people as brains not their hands to be successful. 

We talk about Gen Y. We talk about Gen X. We talk Millennial. I think we actually do ourselves a disservice because it's not about when people were born. It's actually about what we're asking them to do. In that new world, in that place where you need everyone in you company to be able to solve complicated problems that require creative thinking, to do that well, you have to be people-centric. Back in the '50s, it meant we ran our businesses by looking at the financial metrics. People said, "Well that's a lag indicator. What's the lead indicator?" Lead indicator is whether your customers are happy. We became customer-centric. I think now we're saying, "Well what's the lead indicator on your customers being happy?" It's actually, are your people engaged, are your people motivated, is it an environment where they can be effective. That's what I call being people-centric. A people-centric company is a culture first company. That's what culture first means to me.

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