Creating a great company culture in a tech company is about more than fun events, and it's not just up to the CEO. Learn how to help great culture develop.

Team Percussion at Road Race

Creating a Great Company Culture at Percussion Software

Fri Jul 11, 2014

Culture is a hot topic these days. Every company wants to boast a fun, exciting, start-up culture. In a great recent post about culture, Chad Loder, one of the founders of Rapid7 (a hot Boston company), playfully refers to the environment of a start up as a “shared delusion.” He has nailed creating a company with a great culture by understanding one thing: “We are in the people business."

Many leaders and companies want to emulate what they see as great culture, so they install foosball tables, throw parties, and buy lunches. They create core values and post them on the walls—in essence, copying the mechanics, while missing the big picture. Every leader understands the value of culture, but many struggle with how to make culture happen.

Culture Is Emergent, and It’s About Individuals

As a leader, and if you are very lucky, your company is full of a diverse group of individuals. These people come from different backgrounds and experiences, and aspire to do or become people that can be very different from each other. A great technology company is full of extroverts and introverts. Typically, the extroverts are the evangelists and salespeople who are energized by spending time with others. As we all know, introverts need time to themselves to perform at their best—often, these are the engineers.This comparison is just one example, but there are many other contrasts when thinking about people inside any company. Some people are inspired to create great products, while others are driven to create wealth. Despite these differences, or, rather, as a result of these differences, great companies can achieve great things.

It is tempting to force culture by catering to the loudest or largest constituents in the company. I have worked for engineering-led companies and sales-driven companies. Each of these companies leaned toward one group, and, as a result, created imbalanced cultures. Winners and losers. The reality is that success emerges from the interactions among these varied group of individuals, and the culture must foster all different types of people in the company.

Giving everyone a shared sense of success and purpose will drive that culture and encourage everyone to develop a common language. Culture is also defined by action, the values you try to instill and nurture as a result of your behavior, not by posters put up on a wall, written by a management team in closed-door sessions. For example, you may claim you are a customer-centric company, but your employees know better because they observe the way the company prioritizes and takes action. Culture is what you do, not what you say.

Company Culture at Percussion

At Percussion, we value transparency, collaboration and accountability. We want positive attitudes and people who seek solutions and answers. We encourage everyone to bond with each other with fun activities, like hosting a world cup party or participating in a road race. All of those things are great, but by themselves, not culture. Culture is what develops organically among team members. In many cases, the people at Percussion are offering creative ideas for events and things to do together, because, they want to. Participation comes from all teams and individuals, be they introverts or extroverts. That is the essence of culture—the attitude and desire to spend more time together with the people who are working like crazy to succeed alongside you. Create an environment that fosters this attitude, and you have the makings for great culture.

What Can Leaders Do to Build Culture?

As a leader in an organization where culture is important, the best you can do is lead by example. See how you carry yourself, whether you embody and consistently practice the values you want to instill. Do you show appreciation to people who do great things? Do you celebrate the small, everyday victories, because you are genuinely thrilled when they happen?

Set the tone for your team. Show people how important it is to seek out those team members with different backgrounds and experiences, because it is through those interactions that you will find the alternative points of view or complementary skill set that leads you in the right direction. Ultimately, it is through this wide variety of people, skill sets, and perspective, brought together at the right time that leads to successful companies with great culture.

Mark Somol
Mark Somol
President and Chief Operating Officer | Percussion Software

Mark Somol first joined Percussion as Chief Financial Officer, where he was responsible for leading finance and corporate development as well as helping to drive business strategy. His exemplary leadership earned him the position of President and COO in 2014. Mark is deeply passionate about building technology companies stemming from his 20 year career in both venture-funded high-growth companies and as a venture capitalist.

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