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Learn to become a whizz at coding your company culture

25 Sep 2019

Whether you’re start-up or a household name, learn how to perfect your company culture with this advice from Satej Sirur.

One of the most critical ingredients in a successful business today, whether it’s a start-up or a long-established global name, is culture.

In an article for, Rocketium CEO Satej Sirur wrote that in just four hours any start-up can develop an “aspirational yet practical code to live by”.

We’ve explored his top tips for you to get started, so what are you waiting for?

Why is culture important?

According to Sirur, every company has a culture that emerges from how its people behave, what they care about, and what they reward or punish. How a team behaves when nobody is watching them is how their culture comes to life, and that includes how they treat each other as well as external clients and stakeholders.

It’s crucial not only to be aware of those behaviours, but to inform them too. Once they’re established, they should be written down and made known to everyone in the company.

When should culture be prioritised?

Sirur talks about the importance of team thresholds when it comes to working on your company code.

This includes identifying the changes when your team passes the point of 10 employees, 25 employees, 100 employees and so on, with each stage roughly corresponding to the addition of a management layer or department.

When a company is still relatively small, team members experience lots of interaction with its founders. At that point, it’s easy for employees to pick up on their boss’s behaviours and adopt them. But as a business grows, it becomes more and more important to clearly outline the culture and to document it well.

Common mistakes to avoid

And that documentation really is integral to a successfully implemented culture code, making it a common place for pitfalls.

It can be easy for founders to believe that their employees already know what’s expected of them, but the reality, according to Sirur, is that as a company grows, new team members learn from the five to 10 people around them.

Creating a culture code that doesn’t relate to what employees actually do on a daily basis is another prevalent misstep. Something to avoid is having codes generated by senior management working in a different location to the rest of the company, or by a small number of people working with an idea that isn’t realistic to everyone else.

As Sirur said, handing out irrelevant company commandments is just as ineffective as having no culture code in place whatsoever.

How to develop a culture code

Remember the people who matter most. Keep stakeholders in mind from the beginning of your culture’s journey, but treat these three groups as most important, in the following order: self, team and community.

Sirur also recommends that you create your culture code democratically. The challenges of developing a culture when you have a big team include not getting everyone to contribute and having the loudest voice drowning out others. Circumventing this requires a combination of brainstorming and competition.

One method is to split into smaller groups with equal representation from every department and have each group develop their own ideas for principles. After that, the groups can communicate them with one another, allowing suggestions to be debated and narrowed down.

Then, when it comes to solidifying the principles you want to bring forward and implement, think about the behaviours your staff already exhibits. Creating a culture code from popular habits is easier than building new ones from scratch.

To make sure those stretch qualities aren’t forgotten about, you can also list aspirational qualities that you want to have. This holds you to a higher standard and lets individuals uniquely contribute to the code.

Breathing life into a culture

Sirur believes that the biggest win for companies developing a culture code will be if most principles are things they already do in their day-to-day activities.

But it’s still important to initiate new hires into the documented company culture. Here are Sirur’s tips on how to achieve this:

  1. Publish culture principles on your website so potential candidates know what you stand for
  2. Talk about your culture during on-boarding and feature it prominently in employee handbooks
  3. Use the culture code in decision-making and conversations
  4. Reward employees who live up to the culture code
Lisa Ardill
By Lisa Ardill

Lisa Ardill joined Silicon Republic as senior careers reporter in July 2019. She has a BA in neuroscience and a master’s degree in science communication. She is also a semi-published poet and a big fan of doggos. Lisa briefly served as Careers Editor at Silicon Republic before leaving the company in June 2021.

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