October 8, 2013
How To Make Culture Your Co-Founder

Most small and mid-sized business leaders are so busy just executing on a daily basis they don’t get intentional when it comes to crafting their own company culture. This is an important oversight which, once corrected, can accelerate the growth of the business.

The best of company culture I’ve ever encountered comes from entrepreneur, Brett Martin, in an article he wrote in Medium:

Think of culture as a co-founder that is present when you are not. You are decisive, communicative and respectful but it’s your culture that helps everyone know how to act when you are out of the room. Give that voice clarity and authority.

So how do you do that? How do you create clarity and be intentional in crafting your culture?

TRX is a fast growing mid-sized company that makes lightweight and affordable training equipment. Former Navy SEAL, Randy Hetrick, started the company to bring to market a suspension strap exercise system he first used while on deployments. Today, their suspension training system is used throughout the military and is a favorite of personal trainers, as well.

When asked about the importance of company culture, Hetrick sounded very much like the Special Ops soldier he once was. “We view our company culture as the glue that holds the many different pieces of our team together. Our culture provides the strength and foundation to operate as a high performing team all around the world.”

The foundation of any culture is a company’s mission. Not a long sanitized mission statement that nobody can remember, but one that people can actually recite. The TRX mission is ambitious yet concise: To Democratize World-class Training.

As important as the company’s mission are your values, which initially tend to reflect the founder’s personal values, and can grow and iterate over time. Once again, TRX helps employees to remember and live their values by crafting an easy to remember acronym. “FACE UP” is the short hand for six values:

  • Fun
  • Authentic
  • Competitive
  • Effective
  • United
  • Physical

Hetrick knows culture must be lived; it can’t exist only in the form of motivational posters. “Everyone from the CEO to the newest instructor in the training center shows up and commits to living our FACE UP values,” he explained. The TRX environment purposely supports these values with free healthy snacks in the kitchen, exercise balls instead of office chairs and plenty of team-building events focused on exercise.

With the numerous demands put on business leaders today, it’s easy to believe the Navy SEAL motto, “The only easy day was yesterday.” But if you think of your culture as your always present co-founder, it will be easier to focus on it as a strategic priority. Define your mission and clarify your values, then lead the way.

Kevin Kruse is a NY Times bestselling author, speaker and serial entrepreneur. His latest book is Employee Engagement for Everyone.