There’s a paradox at the heart of a great company culture. Most great company cultures aren’t about the company at all.
If you want people with integrity, work ethic, and vision – the people who will help your company succeed – you’ll have to hire people who don’t care too much about your company per se. They can’t care too much about salary, title, job position, or even the riches of an exit.
The things which unite people around the common cause of a company aren’t the things which a company can offer: perks, branded t-shirts, paid time off, etc. Big-ass problems unite people, and the mission of solving those big-ass problems unites people. Your company is not the end but a means to the end of problem-solving.
You need to articulate your vision in such a way that your employees’ work on the big-ass problem now – with your company – will matter regardless of whether your company succeeds or fails or pivots.
Frame your work in the biggest possible terms and for the longest possible timeframes. Put the smallness of your company’s daily concerns in the context of the biggest possible challenge. Relate every day’s small, frustrating challenges to tangible progress on the big-ass problem. That paperwork, this customer support issue, that meeting, this office supply run – all of these things are steps that are making a better world in the present.
But don’t make the work about your company. Just give your people the satisfaction and validation of progressively solving a big-ass problem every day and with every bit of work they do. If you give them a vision beyond your company, they won’t bother fighting for the petty things of too many inward-focused companies: position, job security, ego.
They’ll (paradoxically) be able to withstand more (figurative) punches in the face and keep your company growing through harder times if they know that their work means something regardless of your company’s success or failure.
And they will love your company by default because it will be the way they experience the adventure of their lives.