Half the fun of starting your own business was creating your ideal work culture. But as you grow and scale, this can be hard to maintain. So how do you make sure your awesome culture grows with your company?

To find out, we asked 13 successful founders from the YEC how they managed to do so with their own teams.

1. Be first to arrive and last to leave

Douglas HutchingsThere is no substitute for hard work and everyone will look to the leader as an example. Employees should know that no matter how hard they work, there is always someone working harder.

– Douglas Hutchings, Picasolar

2. Show the ROI of transparency and trust needs

AJ ThomasFind ways to measure how transparency and trust flows within your organization. Whether it’s through your employee survey or through leadership interactions.

Keeping your pulse on this thread will help leaders be more connected to the culture, and the people more connected to the organizations’ own values and goals.

– Aj Thomas, Infuse Entrepreneurship

3. Have an out-of-office team building

Jonathan LongA strong work culture requires that everyone gels together. After-work dinners or activities are a great way to help build the strength of your team.

An activity like bowling is great because it’s competitive—create a team of competitors that want to win and work well together and you will be unstoppable.

– Jonathan Long, Market Domination Media

4. Create core values and highlight people who live up to them

Matt MickiewiczOnce you’ve defined your company’s core values (hopefully though a collaborative vs. top-down process), it’s important to reiterate them constantly rather than just filing them away in a drawer where they never see the light of day.

At our weekly meeting—called the Hired Huddle—we highlight core value leaders in the organization and give them the recognition they deserve.

– Matt Mickiewicz, Hired

5. Make your team laugh

Michael PortmanKeep from going corporate by staying funny. For example, my co-founder sent a company-wide email “requiring” random drug testing on April Fool’s Day that had everyone in stitches—and many relieved it was just a joke. You’re never too big to keep it light, despite what HR might say.

– Michael Portman, Birds Barbershop

6. Think twice before you hire

Nathan ShellTo minimize the risk associated with rapid growth, ensure that the core values and mission of the company are clear and ingrained in the culture.

The first step is to hire right. You can train someone to have the skills necessary to do his or her job, but you can never change someone’s attitude. Make sure the people you hire fit your culture and long-term vision for the organization.

– Nathan Snell, nCino, Inc

7. Get to know your employees

dave-nevogtMaking yourself personally accessible to your employees will help keep your company culture strong. Although it’s hard to maintain personal relationships with a large group of people, you can at least commit to remembering their first names.

Ask them about their lives with genuine interest and active listening. Socialize with them and you’ll have an open, respectful, positive company culture.

– Dave Nevogt, Hubstaff.com

8. Host group meals

Danny WongAs structured departments begin to form within your startup, it is easy for function-level groups to become insular. Marketing only talks with sales but rarely interacts with engineering; finance huddles with company executives but no one else.

To avoid that sort of behavior, teams should regularly interact—and quality food always helps.

– Danny Wong, Grapevine

9. Get employees involved in shaping culture

Kim KaupeAs a business grows the culture inevitably changes very quickly. In order to keep up with changing personalities, we chose to get our employees involved in what our culture would be.

Each month one employee is selected to our rotating Culture Captain position. This person is in charge of shaping the month. From Funky Friday dress-up days to happy hours, our employees constantly create our culture.

– Kim Kaupe, ZinePak

10. Keep people interested

Derek LabianThe best way to keep your team effective is to keep them interested in what they are doing. People who connect with a project work harder, faster, and better—it’s infectious.

It’s easy for an employee to get stuck in a routine that ultimately leads to lower productivity, less interest, and less work product. Help your employees develop, and allow them to grow in their position.

– Derek LabianMediaFire

11. Keep communicating

Conduct weekly one-on-one check-ins with employees rather than yearly reviews. It takes some extra time and energy but keeps the team focused and feeling valued.

– Simon Casuto, eLearning Mind

12. Keep your people happy and loyal

Chad HalvorsonAs a startup, it’s natural to want to keep your nose to the grindstone and focus all your time on growth. You have to take time to invest in your employees and your company culture.

At When I Work, we like to keep ourselves in check by allowing departments a chance to get out, have fun, and recharge. For example, we recently took the whole company go-karting after a “marathon month.”

– Chad Halvorson, When I Work

13. Send team members on “dates”

Beck_BambergerEveryone on our team gets assigned a “date” with two people a month. It’s a form of cross-pollinating that helps abate cliques, creates personal bonds, and lets team members know one another beyond the day-to-day business setting.

People who love the people they work with want to stay with those people, and a collective of people who trust and enjoy one another is the backbone of culture.

– Beck Bamberger, BAM Communications

How has your company worked to maintain a strong culture?

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