It’s common for aspiring founders to keep a running list of potentially promising startup ideas in their note-taking app of choice. It's decidedly less common for them to maintain a “Company Building Notebook” where they squirrel away thoughtful reads and helpful tips on how to improve as a CEO, scale a team, and shape culture — all before there’s even a product idea in sight. But Laura Del Beccaro always found herself in that bucket.
“When I was starting off in my career, I was constantly reading about all things company building and collecting articles that inspired me. How should you scale your product team to hundreds of people? How can you hold a really great 1:1? I didn’t even have any direct reports,” she says. “My digital notebook is broken out into different sections, like product reads or go-to-market advice. But the biggest section by far has always been about leadership, management and culture.”
After spending several years as an engineer — first at Mixpanel and then right here on the First Round team — Del Beccaro got the chance to put all of this reading into practice in 2018 when she took the entrepreneurial leap to start Sora, an HR Operations platform that helps people teams create better employee experiences by automating key processes, from onboarding to offboarding and everything in between. The startup has raised nearly $20 million after finding strong traction, and counts companies like Plaid, Flexport, Affirm, and BetterUp as customers.
“The way we build our product, interact with customers, scale our go-to-market function — all of that boils down to company culture for me,” says Del Beccaro. Of course, she’s not alone in this belief. Slogans like “Culture eats strategy for breakfast” have staying power for a reason.
In our experience, however, most founders tend to remain high-level when the topic of culture comes up. For starters, there are tons of reads on why culture matters, but strikingly few on how to actually architect it. “We all understand what it means to some extent, but it's rarely defined or broken down. There are frameworks for product/market fit or founder-led sales, but when it comes to culture, the details are always fuzzier and the advice is less concrete, even though it's incredibly important,” says Del Beccaro. “I would argue that culture is actually the baseline for all other frameworks — if you want your company to obsess over product/market fit, for example, you need to engrain that in your culture from the start.”
Another factor is that culture is often framed as the stitching that knits thousand-person teams together. It’s rarely examined at the co-founding duo, 5-person team, or 30-person startup level. More often, it’s seen as something that emerges organically — something to worry about only once you’ve hit a certain scale or after problems emerge.
It’s no surprise that Del Beccaro has a different take here. In this exclusive interview, she provides a unique window into crafting culture at the earliest of stages. She offers up a concrete framework for making sure it shows up in values, hiring, performance management, and leadership. Filled with practical pointers and a helpful set of questions to ask yourself, Del Beccaro’s advice also provides examples of both concepts she’s implemented at Sora and ideas she’s collected in that notebook of inspiration. Whether you're trying to build a culture from scratch, hoping to shore up your foundation before hypergrowth, or evaluating the existing dynamic at a large company, this read is for you.
START WITH INTENTION (AND A DEFINITION)
“The reason we started Sora is to free up more time for HR and People teams to invest in their employees. When folks are happy, motivated, and engaged, they're much more productive and likely to stay around a lot longer — which significantly impacts the bottom line,” says Del Beccaro. “This isn’t groundbreaking to say. And yet we've all worked at a company where the culture was actively getting in the way of success, whether it was a fear of making mistakes, a lack of transparency and constructive feedback, or a pattern of passing over underrepresented employees for promotions,” she says.
Culture shows up in every corner of your company. And it’s tough to undo. “When you're at 200 people and you suddenly realize, ‘We have a really bad Slack culture’ or ‘We have no diversity,’ you see just how hard it is to right the ship if you weren't thoughtful about it from the beginning.”
If you don’t intentionally set the tone early on, your culture will run away from you — and you’ll likely be too slow to realize it.
But many founders make a calculated tradeoff, thinking culture belongs on the back-burner in the early days of building an early version of the product and iterating to find traction. There’s also the argument that culture isn’t necessarily top-down, that it can take a while to organically emerge from the band of early employees.
“Culture is commonly overlooked, particularly at early-stage companies. It’s easy to think, ‘We're only five people, our culture is who we hire, we don't need to define anything until we’re bigger,’” she says. In Del Beccaro’s view, this is a mistake. “‘Hire amazing people’ could mean talented or kind or ambitious — which are you optimizing for? Startups are often allergic to process, but a hiring process exists whether you define it or not. It’s the same with culture. You have one, you just aren't in control of it if you’re not defining it.”
You may not realize it, but as an early founder you are making decisions about your culture — they just might not be thoughtful decisions.
In other words, don’t leave culture on auto-pilot, even at the stage where your entire team comfortably fits around a single table. But what decisions do you need to be making exactly? “If it’s an amorphous concept, it’s easier to leave off the to-do list — it doesn’t seem like there are tangible changes to make or ways you can move things forward as a founder. One of the reasons for this murkiness is the fact that there are lots of different takes on what culture even means,” she says.
“There are old tropes like ping pong tables or dogs in the office. Others think of communication, or camaraderie, or the amount of fun employees have at work. But on a very basic level, it's how you do anything at work,” says Del Beccaro. “Jess Yuen, former Head of People at Gusto and one of Sora's most trusted advisors, distilled it into the most crisp definition I’ve seen:
Culture is the set of words, actions, and behaviors of a group of people.
CRAFT (OR ASSESS) COMPANY CULTURE WITH THE WORDS-ACTIONS-BEHAVIORS FRAMEWORK:
And with a definition in hand, the concept becomes easier to break down. Del Beccaro has helpfully distilled this definition of culture into a framework organized around the three pillars of words, actions and behaviors. Going through each section in turn, use it to assess how your nascent company culture is coming together — or to define how you and your co-founder would like your future team to work together.
A quick note before we dive in: It’s always easiest to implement cultural practices from the beginning. “Change is hard at any company, and cultural change can be even harder. But it’s never too late and it’s always worth it,” says Del Beccaro.
So what should you do if you already have dozens, hundreds or even thousands of employees? “Use this same framework to evaluate your culture. Score your company on each of the questions in the below three pillars, and put together a list of improvements you can make. Then it’s time to pick battles,” says Del Beccaro.
“What would it take to create change in a given area? Creating traditions can be as easy as doing something silly in your next company-wide meeting — but something like getting leaders to take more PTO may take a lot more work. Just like a product team would, evaluate the impact level and the difficulty level of every item in your list. Tackle high impact and low difficulty things first, and work your way down the list from there.”
With that, let’s dive into the framework:
WORDS: WHAT WE SAY AND HOW WE SAY IT.
“This first pillar is about communication within teams, between teams, and between individuals — essentially how we treat each other when we interact. The frequency with which we talk, the way we talk to each other, the tone we use, how we communicate good or bad news, whether we communicate certain things at all, and the channels we choose to use — those are all essential pieces of our culture,” says Del Beccaro.
“We all hope we’re hiring kind and caring people with good communication skills. But especially as the team grows and pressure mounts, things can start to break down. Meetings balloon and become unproductive. Folks start to clam up or avoid conflict. Assessing how you currently communicate and deciding how you want to treat each other in an ideal world will help you thoughtfully navigate the inevitable challenges — instead of letting company culture slowly devolve into an unhealthy dynamic.”
Startups have a lot of ambiguity and pressure, and different people wear that stress very differently. Be intentional about how you want folks to communicate when they’re at their best — and how you’ll handle it when they’re at their worst.
Questions to ask yourself as you architect or evaluate:
How often do we have meetings and how are they designed? “At Sora, we avoid ‘update’ meetings — the kind where metrics are shared one by one and the entire meeting could have been an email. Instead we share updates ahead of meetings like All Team Meeting and we trust employees to read them. This means we can use the scheduled time for delving into those items that need discussion, or for team traditions or team building,” says Del Beccaro. “More tactically, we use Threads to collect meeting updates and keep them organized. We also have a quarterly exercise where every leader at Sora goes through their calendar and confirms that all of their meetings are actually helpful for every single participant in the meeting.”
How do folks talk to each other in meetings? “One indicator: If someone were to come sit in on your company's executive team meeting, what would they observe about how the team asks questions of one another? There’s a big difference between an accusatory tone: ‘Well, why didn't the sales number go up?’ and a genuine one, where questions are asked to help the asker and others understand something. These dynamics have repercussions up and down the org chart.”
How quickly do we expect someone to respond to a Slack message, an email, or anything else? How often are employees speaking to each other outside of meetings? “At Sora, we try to be available to each other but never expect someone to ‘be online’ at any time of day. Slack responses are not expected immediately. Communicating these norms clearly — and repeatedly — is important, especially in a remote work environment,” says Del Beccaro. “We do create user guides to help document preferences, but we emphasize that it's not on reports to adjust to their manager's style. It's very much a tool for managers to learn about the best ways to work with their reports, from how they like to receive feedback to what hours they like to work and how they can be reached.”
How do people tend to express themselves when they're frustrated by something? “This is a really important one. Obviously, it’s not great if folks lash out when they’re upset. But it’s important to be aware of risks on the flip side as well. We had an issue early on at Sora where we were too afraid to voice frustration or disagree on certain things, so we thought we had alignment when we didn’t,” says Del Beccaro. “Working remotely can make it harder to confront someone with an opposing idea; you don’t get to walk out of the meeting room with them to make sure they didn’t feel it was personal.”
Do you have a shared language to discuss difficult topics? “This one is very related to the above. How do others know when people are upset, so they know to be extra empathetic in those moments? Startups stir up a lot of feelings that are normally hard to articulate. At Sora, we’ve found language like, ‘The story I'm telling myself is X’ or ‘I got triggered by Y’ to be very helpful. Putting the onus on yourself and letting people know you're in a vulnerable state goes a long way — and also helps others get better at working with you in real time,” says Del Beccaro. (Bias interrupters are also another example.)
How do you find out that something has gone wrong? Are people afraid to bring bad news to leaders? “We’ve all seen that leader who has a temper and can’t handle a setback — it has a chilling effect. But it’s not just about how leaders react. Whether or not somebody can even get time with an exec is also part of culture. Some CEOs are incredibly unapproachable. You never know what they're thinking, and you can't say your piece or give any feedback. “When there’s little hierarchy and tons of camaraderie, this is often less of an issue. But at a certain size, many leaders suddenly find they have no pulse on their organization. If you’re evaluating or trying to improve your existing culture, one of the biggest things to do first is establish a culture of listening. You need to create trust and actually ask people what's going on, getting feedback from reports at every single level.”
If you’re trying to get a better gauge here as a founder, lean on Del Beccaro’s tip: “Schedule 1:1s with as many individual contributors as you can — I try to schedule at least 30-40 across the company every 6 months or so. It takes time, and may not scale beyond 50 employees, but again, maintaining culture is the most important thing I can be doing. Listening to employees is the best way to try to piece together feedback and spot patterns.”
Elements of culture have a way of trickling up and down. If your own reports are afraid to give you bad news, you better believe their reports are afraid to give it to them.
ACTIONS: WHAT WE DO, HOW WE DECIDE WHAT TO DO, AND HOW QUICKLY WE EXECUTE.
Questions to ask yourself as you architect or evaluate:
How are decisions made, and how do we tell people about them? “Who decides things? How quickly are decisions made? Is speed a habit? It’s much easier in the early days, but as you start to scale, you’ll likely need to lean on decision-making frameworks as you look to build this muscle,” she says. “One I’ve been considering is the six thinking hats framework, recommended to me by Danae Sterental at Concrete Rose. It gives you a language and the space to flag what could go wrong or brainstorm crazy ideas, which helps you make sure you’re looking at decisions from all angles."
How do we pay people? What’s our compensation philosophy? “And how transparent are you when it comes to comp? This may change as you scale, but too often comp decisions are random and create disparities that are hard to correct later. As a small example of comp philosophy in action, at Sora we recently implemented standardized pay no matter where people live. We also have specific leveling criteria for every single role. Get this done as soon as you can.”
Who is promoted? Who is hired? Who sticks around? “Interview your longest tenured employees to see why they’ve stayed. Learn what your highest performers have in common — and make sure it’s not that they ‘curry favor with managers’ or ‘are white,’” says Del Beccaro. “Assessing this one also involves taking a step back to look at the systems you’ve built, whether it’s re-examining your interview process for bias or looking at how much you’re promoting from within. At Sora, we’ve started measuring managers’ performance on how proactively they make decisions (like promotions) about their reports.”
How do teams collaborate cross-functionally? Try to see around corners by spotting team tensions before they become embedded. “There are common dynamics that tend to crop up at companies, and leaders can perpetuate them if they’re not careful. Sales and engineering teams are often at odds, for example,” says Del Beccaro. “Part of fixing this involves acknowledging that tension will always exist, but explaining that it can and should be healthy. You can also be proactive: We’ve started having all engineering team members join a sales call every once in a while. It gets them excited about the product and allows them to see customers’ reactions to their work, but more importantly, they get to see first-hand what our sales process looks like. One of our engineers mentioned they had no idea how much SOC 2 compliance came up on sales calls, for example, and had a lot more context behind security initiatives sales had been pulling for.”
BEHAVIORS: THE THINGS WE DO THAT AREN'T DIRECTLY RELATED TO OUR JOB DESCRIPTIONS.
“All of the questions above are related to critical functions of a company. There is no company without communication, meetings, decisions or hires being made. The other side of culture involves behaviors — habits, norms, etc. — that still have a big impact on those critical functions, but don’t always seem directly related,” says Del Beccaro.
Questions to ask yourself as you architect or evaluate:
How are people celebrated? “I once had a manager give me a free week of PTO after I’d worked really hard on a project, and it meant the world to me,” says Del Beccaro. “How do you want to start celebrating little wins? Big wins? It's also important to be thoughtful about exactly what you want to be celebrating. At Sora, we copied the ‘Fronteer of the Week’ and ‘Stumble of the Week’ from Front’s Mathilde Collin (though we call them ‘Sunny-Side Up’ and ‘Weekly Scramble’ as a fun play on our bird logo). Celebrating the Weekly Scramble has a very specific purpose — we’re normalizing talking about mistakes. What other behaviors do you want to incentivize?”
What do we do that's unique to us as a company? “Southwest employees take selfies with the heart logos on their planes. It’s important to find those unique rituals that fit your team, but don’t feel forced,” says Del Beccaro. “We had one of our early leadership offsites in Pacifica and had a great time at a famous Taco Bell there, so now we have this tradition of going to Taco Bell at every team offsite. It's ridiculous, but it's a fun thing that we do together and feels uniquely Soran. It’s never too late to start new traditions. Find organic things that are already happening and think about ways to perpetuate them."
How do we make people feel special when they join (or when they leave?) “At Gusto, everyone from the interview loop joins the offer call, cheering and sharing the details that were most impressive from their time with the candidate.”
How do we get to know each other? “One of our customers implemented a ‘cooking decorating’ session during onboarding, where new hires have 2-3 cookies to decorate. They have to go up to a random person in the office and ask them something about themselves, then decorate a cookie for them based on their conversation. It’s a super creative way to encourage new relationships.”
When do people sign off? How often do people take vacation? “Vacation and general mental health are becoming more commonly discussed topics in tech. But there’s still a wide gap between what leadership and policies officially say, and what people actually do in practice,” says Del Beccaro. “Burnout is a thing that everyone has or will experience — it comes with the territory. At Sora, we normalize it by talking about it all the time. We try to support each other and set boundaries. We schedule emails or Slack messages that are written after 6pm to be sent the next morning. We all take PTO. Vacation in particular is something that must come from the top. No one will take PTO if leaders don’t.”
PUTTING CULTURE INTO PRACTICE: VALUES, PERFORMANCE, AND INCENTIVES
With a better sense of which direction you want to paddle in — or how your company is currently faring — it’s time to take on the everyday work of bringing culture to life. In the sections below, Del Beccaro shares advice for shaping and assessing your company’s approach to values, hiring, performance management, and getting feedback.
Values: How to capture culture on paper
“Values help us put words, actions, and behaviors into pithy categories,” says Del Beccaro. “It's really hard to do. You can't put all of the above into four words that happen to be memorable, but it's a good goal to strive toward.”
Many founders don’t put pen to paper until they reach a certain size, and even then it often takes a few revisions to get it right. Del Beccaro unsurprisingly got a jump on this process. “I had a draft of our company values before I even recruited my co-founder, Orien. They were just works in progress though,” she laughs.
Key milestones for revisiting your company values:
Here she walks us through the process of crafting — and refining — Sora’s values at these early milestones:
Co-founder stage: “I thought it would be helpful to zoom out before we were in the rush of everything: ‘Say it’s five years down the line, and everyone at Sora is actually living out the values we selected. What would a company that we’d be proud of look like?’” she says.
"We then created a list of the things we definitely wanted to get right, like employees taking care of themselves and having a culture of attention to detail. From there, we created a working set of values that we shared with every candidate. It went a long way when hiring our first few employees.”
Building the early team: “When we grew to be 5-10 employees, we did another zoom out and asked, ‘What are the things we're doing well? What are the things that our values haven't captured that we need to be better at?’ For example, we were doing a really good job embodying our ‘People first’ value by taking care of ourselves and acknowledging burnout,” she says.
“But we weren’t making decisions fast enough — we were too careful about things. We needed to alter our behavior a bit, but we definitely didn’t want to get into ‘move fast and break things’ territory, so we strengthened our ‘Empowerment’ value to incorporate facilitating productive meetings that don't waste our colleagues' time and enable each other to experiment and make decisions quickly. This is also one of the reasons we introduced the Weekly Scramble practice, to help emphasize that the fear of making a mistake shouldn't paralyze us.”
Major inflection points: Outside of team growth markers, consider reassessing when there are big changes. “If you’re doing a large re-org, that’s a good cue. Whenever there's an inflection point at your company — a fundraise, a big market shift, a strategy shift, a change in leadership, a layoff — these are all good times to reevaluate,” says Del Beccaro.
“The shift to remote work or the return to an office are huge inflection points. What things do you want to hold onto or change as you scale in a remote or hybrid world?”
Annual review: “Once a year we have a frank discussion about what's going well, which values we're actually paying attention to, and which ones we’re ignoring. We also ask, ‘What are we currently doing that is technically in line with our values but isn't working well for us?’” says Del Beccaro. “We adjust to try to address any gaps we find.”
Founders, here’s a good litmus test for your company values: If you took 6 months off, and left no directions other than “Follow our values to a T,” would you be happy with the outcome?
Crafting your company values from scratch:
If you’re looking to create your values for the first time — or are refreshing them after a certain milestone or evaluation — follow Del Beccaro’s process for putting a shortlist together:
Step 1: Brainstorm. “If you’re still on the small side, have everyone at the company think about the qualities in leaders or direct reports that they’ve valued in the past. Then get each person to answer two questions: ‘What do you believe are the currently held values of the company today?’ and ‘What values would you like to see our company adopt?’” If you’ve got hundreds of employees already, try this variation: “Create a manageable number of “cultural ambassador” groups, pulling individuals who opt-in across teams, levels, and backgrounds to run their own separate brainstorms and present their findings in a templated format. Then use a tool like Dovetail to find trends,” says Del Beccaro.
Step 2: Upvote. “Group the responses from both questions together in one column, and have everyone upvote what they feel would be critical. Set a voting limit (we limited to 4) so people have to make hard prioritization decisions.”
Step 3: Winnow down. “Take the ones that get the most votes and try to group them into themes. Look for any overlap between them and think through how you can combine them into four to five values that encompass the culture you want.”
Step 4: Wordsmith. “Come up with pithy ways to capture those categories — values should be memorable, unique, and meaningful.” (If you’re looking for a dose of inspiration on how to create memorable company values, we recommend revisiting this “Draw the Owl” read from Twilio’s Jeff Lawson.)
Step 5: Evaluate. Take a look at your final list. If you operated only off of these directives, is there anything that might fall through the cracks? Are they aspirational enough to push you to overcome current gaps? (For example, if your culture tends to make people afraid to speak up against an idea that seems to have majority support, can you specifically carve out a value that encourages exploring new or unique proposals? And then reward it when it happens?) “Defining anti-behaviors is also important — specifically calling out how not to abuse each value,” says Del Beccaro. “Valuing transparency doesn’t mean you can probe into people’s personal lives, for example. Valuing speed doesn’t mean people should be shamed for signing off at a reasonable hour and waiting until the next day to answer a Slack message.”
Hiring: How to find candidates who add to the culture, without the airport test
With values in place, it’s natural to incorporate them into your hiring process. “You can use values as a yardstick to evaluate people and make sure there’s alignment — but don’t use them as a weapon. You don’t want to create a process that’s an airport test in disguise or get vague 'culture fit' feedback,” says Del Beccaro.
“Evaluating someone against your values by using specific, rubric-based questions is the better way to go. For example, at Sora, we provide several example questions interviewers might ask to gauge self-awareness (related to our Understanding & Improvement value):
What's something that surprised you about yourself in your last role?
If you were starting a company, what do you think would be the biggest learning you'd want to apply from your current or previous company experience?
What are you trying to work on right now, as a human?
Have you ever gotten feedback that really hurt or surprised you? What happened next?
“We then score a candidate on self-awareness in a detailed feedback form, which asks for a score and explains exactly what someone’s self-awareness level might look like for each score (from top to bottom), so that it's as quantitative as possible. In our rubric, a top score on self-awareness says: Thinks deeply about questions rather than redirecting to answer something else or rattling off a rehearsed response; clearly invests in understanding and improving themselves as part of their development; responds to vulnerability with a willingness to be vulnerable about their shortcomings.”
Culture-specific interview questions:
In addition to values-based questions, here are some of Del Beccaro’s favorite interview questions to ask:
What do you think about our values? “Sometimes an open-ended question like this opens the door for some really interesting reactions or specific questions. Mostly, it's helpful for me to tell whether they really cared to read them (after I sent them over, not on an initial call). A candidate once asked me for a list of everything we do to prioritize inclusion, and I thought it was one, awesome that she cared enough to ask, and two, an important exercise for me to do.”
On a scale of one to 10, one meaning you think diversity and inclusion is a completely overblown thing in Silicon Valley and 10 meaning it's the most important thing a company could do, where do you fall? “A lot of people will answer two or three, which gives me the sense that they don’t align with our values. But they're being honest and I appreciate their transparency.”
Thinking about the companies you've worked at or prior experiences you’ve had, what dynamics or culture would you say we should definitely adopt here? What did you see that you would not want to happen here? “The ‘not’ response is often more interesting than what they would port over. It prompts a conversation about moments of adversity that we can then dig into. There’s a whole path of questioning that ties back into words, actions, and behaviors from here. How did you communicate your frustration? What did you do about this? And what do you hope that we do differently in the future?” says Del Beccaro. “I spoke to a sales candidate recently who volunteered, ‘I really think it's possible to have a sales team that's not purely competing with each other and is actually collaborative as well,’ which is very in line with how we’re thinking about it at Sora.”
When it comes to other reasons why candidates tend to not work out at Sora, Del Beccaro offers this reflection: “It's usually someone who’s never thought about culture. Occasionally there's someone who mostly aligns with our values but just can't answer that last question. They're not able to take a step back and think, ‘How did I feel at this company? What worked and what didn’t?’ Culture wasn’t on their radar at all, and that won’t work here.”
Del Beccaro also notes that Sora’s early focus on culture and values has come in handy for recruiting and retention. “We find really strong alignment with candidates. Our offer acceptance rate is crazy high and we haven't had any full-time employees leave on their own accord,” she says. “What’s more is the flywheel effect. I’ve found that many of the best candidates we speak to are surprised that we've thought about this stuff so early on, and everyone we bring on is someone who’s attracted to that — which means they also care about building culture from the very beginning, further perpetuating our culture.”
Performance management and incentives: Using culture to motivate
“If you use values as a proxy for your culture — assuming they're well defined — employees should be evaluated as objectively as possible on their implementation of your company's values in each performance review,” says Del Beccaro. “Make sure employees know they're being evaluated on this — it will also serve as a very large incentive to keep values top of mind.”
Here’s a sneak peek at how Sora has designed performance reviews at every level around the company values:
Questions when evaluating yourself: “At Sora, your self-review requires you to evaluate yourself on each value and provides examples of behaviors that demonstrate them. For example, it asks you specifically how much PTO you have taken.”
Questions when evaluating a people manager: “How much is this person fighting for the advancement and needs of their reports? (This includes acting early on underperformance.) If you've proactively asked to promote someone on your team, before they asked, we want to reward that behavior.”
Questions when evaluating a direct report: “Did this person take enough PTO? Are they taking care of themselves in terms of managing or acknowledging burnout? Do you have any concrete suggestions for how they could better embody any of our values?”
“Most people are at least partly motivated by doing well in performance reviews, but there are also other incentives that you can use to ensure your values are taken seriously,” says Del Beccaro. “Maybe your managers' bonuses are in part tied to how much vacation their team has taken. Maybe your product team's bonuses are tied to revenue, to encourage cross-team collaboration or a focus on outcomes.”
Individual incentives should always align with company goals — and maintaining a great culture should forever be a company goal.
TAKING STOCK: GUT CHECKS AND LEADING BY EXAMPLE
The most important reminder is that culture is less set it and forget it, and more enduring work-in-progress. In addition to dedicating portions of team offsites to culture, hold skip-levels or check-ins with employees throughout the company to get a sense of how things are trending. Del Beccaro recommends using this template to guide these conversations.
Outside of these temp checks, founders shouldn’t overlook the behaviors they’re modeling as leaders. “Bringing self-awareness to your own performance and recognizing the mistakes you’ve made is key. When I started on my journey as a founder, the most common thing I heard was, ‘You’re going to make a lot of mistakes.’ As a perfectionist, I nodded, but for years secretly aimed to make no mistakes anyway — at least related to culture,” she says.
“Now I’ve flipped the script and truly do understand that mistakes are an important part of the journey — not just an inevitable part of it. The cultural mistakes we’ve seen other companies make have helped shape our own culture for the better, and the mistakes we make do the same.”
Cover image by Getty Images / sakchai vongsasiripat.