Company Culture

What makes you unique to customers wont be sufficiently distinct to recruits

Although the funding market is getting tighter, there are enough companies getting early stage and follow on funding, to create a strong demand for good talent.

In most of the privately held companies I know of, there is a strong need to hire 3-5 developers for each “other” role they hire. Marketing and Design roles are next, followed by Sales.

Most hiring managers at smaller firms I talk to are finding it very hard to hire good folks in this market. The experienced talent (even if they are willing to pay top $) is pretty happy at their current roles, is what I hear constantly.

Many cite good pay, good benefits and great work environment as the key things they offer, but that’s largely insufficient to attract the best people.

On the other hand, the top companies have enough inbound interest from developers and other talent, not because they made it to be a “great place to work”, but because they are attracting a self selecting group of people based on their culture.

What culture is and is not at a startup is fairly hard to understand and express.

I know this: The more unique your culture (good or bad) the more self selecting the kind of people you attract will be.

What makes a company unique for potential employees is not the same as what makes it unique for customers or investors.

A customer wants uniqueness in capabilities, features, etc.

An investor wants uniqueness in technology, distribution etc.

A potential employee wants uniqueness in mission, vision and purpose.

Pay, benefits, compensation, work flexibility are all assumed to be good and table stakes now.

Your culture and how the stories are told around your culture are the things that will attract the self selecting group to apply and want to work for your company.

As an example take HubSpot’s response to the piece by an ex employee.

Their culture attracts a certain type of employee, who would not like to work at another software company for example.

Similarly Jeff Bezos’s response to the New York Times piece was also a defense of their unique culture.

As a founder, I’d spend more time working on creating a unique and different culture which attracts potential employees via word-of-mouth.

Remember, though that what makes your product, technology and company unique wont likely attract potential employees. What makes your culture distinct will.