“What’s the best way to build a brand in the long term? In one word, culture.” – Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos.com

Culture has long been linked to business success, according to many management experts. CEO of Zappos.com Tony Hsieh posits “Your culture is your brand.” Singing in the same tune as Hsieh is Netflix CEO, Reed Hastings, who built a company culture so strong that it changed the face of HR. “At Netflix, we think you have to build a sense of responsibility where people care about the enterprise. Hard work, like long hours at the office, doesn’t matter as much to us. We care about great work,” said Hastings.

Many Silicon Valley CEOs agree that culture is integral to the success of a business. What constitutes good culture? Each culture is unique and a variety of factors should be taken in consideration when assessing company culture. But according to Harvard Business Review, these are six common components of great cultures.

1.  Vision

It all starts with a clear mission statement. A vision that gives the company employees purpose and to come into work day in and out to fight the good fight. This vision and shared mission serves to guide every decision the employee makes. Facebook’s mission is to give people the power to share and make the world more open and connected. People use Facebook for various reasons – from staying connected with friends and family, to sharing what matters to them. It is now the ultimate social network that connects everyone. It even emerged victorious over corporations building their own networks with even more resources. Mark Zuckerberg credits their success to their mission; one that he felt everyone believed in and “cared about more”.

2. Values

At the core of a company’s culture lies its values. A set of strong values act as a compass to guide employees’ behavior and mindset needed to achieve the company’s mission. Salesforce has built a company incorporating their values into their mission and salesforce.org was formed. Their 1-1-1 integrated philanthropy turned into a vision that inspired clients, partners and other companies in Silicon Valley to follow suit. In the words of entrepreneur and founder of Salesforce, Marc Benioff, “To be truly successful, companies need to have a corporate mission that is bigger than making a profit. We try to follow that at salesforce.com, where we give 1% of our equity, 1% of our profits, and 1% of our employees’ time to the community. By integrating philanthropy into our business model our employees feel that they do much more than just work at our company. By sharing a common and important mission, we are united and focused, and have found a secret weapon that ensures we always win.” Salesforce has been awarded Most Innovative Company award twice in a row by Forbes and is consistently ranked in the top 10 Best Places to Work.

3. Practices                

Practice what you preach. A company needs to lead by example by embodying the values they seek to represent in their daily operations. One of Facebook’s five core values is to Be Bold, and the company has an active culture of encouraging bold decisions because building great things means taking risks, even if it leads to mistakes at times. Their other value of moving fast perfectly complements being bold, because they recognize the value of building more and learning faster. Being less afraid of making mistakes is a valued attribute because opportunities are lost when things move too slowly. Facebook’s culture of builders rings true in the face of these corporate values being put into practice.

4. People

The greatest companies in the world also have some of the most stringent recruitment policies and practices because they understand that a company is successful when people share its core values and embrace it as part of the culture. Hire not only for skill, but for culture fit, especially in the early stages of the business. Those first staff members will eventually become decision makers in future, and their habits and practices will have an impact on the daily interactions of new employees. That is how great companies build a strong culture – with people. AirBnB CEO Brian Chesky took six months to hire his first employee – an engineer – because he saw the hire as someone more than just an engineer to help build a product but a longer term investment into the company’s culture and DNA. The people shape the culture.


5. Narrative

Building a company’s narrative arc involves telling a unique story. Elements of a narrative can be formal such as Coca Cola celebrating its heritage with a World of Coke museum, or stories of Steve Jobs’ early fascination with calligraphy that shaped the brands aesthetic-oriented culture. Your company’s history when shaped and retold can serve as a powerful narrative that gives meaning to your company’s culture.

6. Place

Pixar has a huge open atrium where employees run into each other throughout the day and interact in informal unplanned ways. Tech firms cluster in Silicon Valley and financial firms in London and New York. In Singapore, Disney and LucasFilms are based in one-north – an area designated for media and interactive, design and digital companies whereas startups congregate in BLK 71. What is the reason behind all the phenomena? Well, place shapes culture. An open architecture is more conducive for collaboration. Certain cities and countries have local cultures that aligns with the culture a firm is trying to create. Office locations play a big part in reflecting a company’s culture; the architecture and design ultimately impacts the values and behaviours of people in a workplace.

AirBnB overtook Google and secured the top spot in Glassdoor’s Best Places To Work list. CEO Brian Chesky cites culture as one of three key areas that he is hands-on with in the operations of AirBnB. The 33 year-old first-time CEO is recognized by his team and industry professionals for his sharp leadership, leading to a company with a culture that people are keen to work in. Chesky shares his insight : 

“Brand is really the connection between you and your customers…if you have a very strong culture, then the brand will come through.”

Some of the biggest brands in the world are known for their culture, Apple, Google, Facebook, Disney and Netflix to name a few. Build your next startup with a culture that inspires the people who will work for you and also the people who work with you.

At ALPHA Camp, we emphasise on creating a culture that encourages a problem-solving attitude, curiosity, innovation, and cooperation. These values are reflected in the way we run our company, as well as how the classes are conducted, how students ideas are pitched, how projects run, and so on. If you are interested to join the movement, don’t hesitate to contact us and schedule a visit!