80% of your company's culture will be defined by its founders
I recently read the amazing book “Principle” by Roy Dalio, the founder of Bridgepoint, one of the most successful Hedge Fund of the World (https://www.amazon.co.uk/Principles-Life-Work-Ray-Dalio/dp/1501124021).
The book last for over 500 pages with some part more interesting than others but something really impressed me by his story.
Since the beginning of Bridgepoint (1 employee) Dalio identified the need to define a series of strong principles for the company. He identified 5 main principles, that lasted for the last 30 years:
Realize that you have nothing to fear from knowing the truth
Have integrity and demand it from others.
Create an environment in which everyone has the right to understand what makes sense and no one has the right to hold a critical opinion without speaking up.
Be radically transparent
Meaningful relationships and meaningful work are mutually reinforcing, especially when supported by radical truth and radical transparency.
Those principle were defined by Dalio itself and are a stunning example of how companies are built in the image of their founder.
These are the people who sat down and said this is such a good idea that I want to devote my entire life to it. Companies tend to reflect everything about them — their personality, strengths, weaknesses.
If a founder is competitive, the company will be more aggressive and competitive. If they are analytical and data-driven, the company will tend to make metrics-based decisions. On the other hand, if a founder deliberates too long over decisions, their startup may have a hard time moving as fast as it should. If a founder is a designer, the way the company builds products will likely be led by design.
The American VC Company First Round, that believe that 80% of the company culture is defined by its founders, identified a series of questions that a new founder should ask himself:
What are my strengths?
What am I outstanding at?
What sets me apart from the people around me?
What do I value about the people around me?
When I look at my friends, what are the characteristics they have in common?
What qualities drive me crazy about people?
How do I make my best decisions? (Think of a recent decision you made that had a good outcome. What process led to that?)
What am I bad at?
All of these questions lead you directly to things that will likely define your company culture.