Bootstrap, headcount, pivot - words that are all too familiar for startups. The challenges that come with starting a company (and the even more challenging part of ensuring its survival) is a phase that entrepreneurs hope to ride out without too much blood, sweat and tears. But we sometimes forget that the dynamics unique to startups are often what lends to its growth. Even after a company ‘makes it’ as they say, maintaining a startup culture within the team can shape a long-term path to success. Essentially, it’s about having the vision of a large company, but staying adaptable and fast-paced like a small one. Cultivating a meaningful startup culture is not always straightforward, especially for mature companies that have to account for the inevitable rigidity of managing a large team, or operations for multiple departments, time zones, etc. We’re here to share some ideas for instilling a permanent startup-state-of-mind through approaches that encourage collaboration, flexibility, and innovation. Be sure to share your thoughts below!
Encouraging a closeness within the team goes beyond birthday lunch parties and the annual off-site; building a truly collaborative team means working in an open environment on a daily basis and through that, forming the trust. The ability to readily bounce ideas off one another and communicate without having to leave a cubicle can make all the difference. For a startup, a communal office setting may mean a small budget for office space, but such a setting actually enables impromptu meetings that are short and efficient. And a more transparent network where team members feel more comfortable to speak their mind and collaborate.
One of the most defining (and stress-inducing) tasks when establishing a startup is hiring the first employees. People who thrive in startup environments harness certain qualities: quick to learn, relentless work ethic, and a solid belief in the company’s mission and vision. Often, the first employees must learn to be generalists, assume tasks in unfamiliar territory, or even take on a role that is wholly foreign. While this may be challenging, it also catapults personal and professional development, and invariably, the strength of the entire team. For a more mature company, there’s more so a focus on specialization and the breakdown of responsibilities, where the volume of applications necessitate a filtration system based on former titles and high profile ex-employers. While this is important, to prioritize passion and energy is to encourage members to grow the company, as opposed to growing with the company.
Perhaps the most important point on this list, also notably the most difficult to achieve, is maintaining a company culture that is conducive for crafting innovation. The procedural and hierarchical structure of larger companies sometimes poses limitations to materializing new ideas — or rather opportunities to do so. The relatively less structured nature of a startup means that there’s more room for experimentation, and a more pervasive drive to create something new. Facilitating the dialogue for creativity comes down to supportive leadership. E ncouraging experimentation, allowing time for employees to explore a new idea, or even assume a different role in the company lends to new perspectives.
One of the main priorities of our Cadet Program is to introduce young minds to the world of startups and all that it has to offer. For university students, the future should dazzle with possibilities, where choices are vast, diverse, and exciting. We want students in Hong Kong to know that they can shape their own career path, where the corporate route is only one among many. Join us on this journey as we connect young talent with top startups by getting to know more about our program!
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Author: Ching Lam Ip, Programme & Marketing Lead, Garage Society
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