When is it time to start focusing on company culture?


The short answer is, from the first day you start building. But, in the early days of the company, when the team is very small and everyone is focused on a singular goal of building and shipping something users love, the culture “just happens.” As the company grows, and needs to start coordinating across more people to bring more of your stuff to more users in more places, it’s time to start getting more prescriptive.

As the saying goes, eventually founders will have to transition from building a product to building a company. And, as Stripe co-founder and CEO says, “I think most companies start to explicitly encode and articulate their principles or values too late.”

Here’s a list of signs you might be ready to start putting pen to paper on yours, and start to focus more on building your company:

  • two people are meeting and you don’t know what about…and it turns your tummy
  • don’t know personal details about everyone
  • Someone shares “the perspective of the company on x” and you disagree with it completely
  • Something shipped without your eyes that didn’t meet your bar 
  • A decision was made without you that went in a direction you wouldn’t advocate for
  • You’re arbitrating spats you find silly and/or think those involved should be able to arbitrate amongst themselves
  • You’re asked to make decisions you think others should be able to make on their own 
  • Your meetings feel useless and/or redundant
  • Two groups are working on exactly the same thing without knowing it 
  • You receive two vastly different reports on the same workstream 
  • Moved into an entirely reactive workflow (only have time for meetings and emails)
  • Somebody starts with a job title you’re confused about 
  • Make marginal progress a lot of places but don’t get anything to completion / lots of little steps but no big strides 
  • Old timer that was a great fit but is no longer contributing like they used to, maybe you think they should move on