Startup Culture Mindset: A book review by Bob Morris

Startup Culture Mindset: A Primer to Building an Amazing Culture and Tribe
Bernhard Schroeder
Independently Published (November 2019)

“Culture eats strategy for breakfast.”  Peter Drucker

Drucker’s comment is generally true but I think he would agree that some cultures are stronger than others. Those who defend a status quo were probably actively engaged in efforts to replace the previous status quo, especially one that has become hostage to what James O’Toole has so aptly characterizes as “the ideology of comfort and the tyranny of custom.”

As I worked my way through Bernhard Schroeder’s latest and — in my opinion — his most valuable book, I was again reminded of several great teams, such as the Disney animators who created so many film classics such as Bambi and Pinocchio, Lockheed’s “skunk works,” the Bell Labs, the Manhattan Project, and Xerox PARC. Each began as a startup and their leaders developed a workplace culture that attracted the talents, skills, and experiences of others needed to help achieve the given objectives.

In the first chapter, Schroeder focuses on five myths concerning organizational culture and explains what in fact is true. Two are of special interest and value to me, and directly relevant to the aforementioned peak performance teams:

Myth 3: “Culture is really about pay and benefits.”

Reality: “Pay and benefits are a small part of culture: While compensation and benefits certainly play a role in culture, it’s not the core reason people show up every day…Culture also includes the talented and driven people that make up a company, which is why hiring for culture is so important.”

Myth 5: “All you need is yoga and natural juice: Unlimited vacation time. On premise yoga classes.” Natural juice in the fridge. Happy hours every Friday. Ping pong tables. The list goes on.”

Reality: “You can’t buy a culture: When it comes to culture, material things are only part of the culture. You need to build your culture carefully and believe in it. You need to recognize your employees’ hard work. You need to invest in their professional development to prove you care About your employees’ futures.”

Schroeder discusses all this in greater depth on Pages 8-11.

He devotes a separate chapter, Chapter Eleven (“Teams Beat Talent”), to explaining HOW to apply this key insight: No individual will never be able to accomplish as much as a talented team can. “Put your ego aside and craft an amazing team, giving them freedom and accountability., and supporting them when they need it. You exist to support the teams [i.e. collaborative efforts, whatever their scale and nature may be]. Just give them a powerful mission in a great culture.”

These are among the commitments that a startup’s founder or founders must make and then sustain:

o A compelling vision
o Non-negotiable core values
o A workplace culture within which personal growth and professional development thrive
o Customer-centrism (Apple, Amazon, Twitter, and Williams Sonoma)
o Leadership (i.e.initiative) at all levels and in all areas of operation

Keep in mind that each of the Fortune 500 companies was once a start-up. It is no coincidence that companies annually ranked among those that are most highly admired and best to work for are usually annually ranked among those most profitable and having the greatest cap value.

In this “primer,” Bernhard Schroeder provides an abundance of information, insights, and counsel that can prepare almost anyone in almost any organization to help establish a solid organizational foundation on which to create breakthrough achievements that produce high-impact results.

I also highly recommend his earlier publications, notably

Brands and BullS**t: Excel at the Former and Avoid the Latter. A Branding Primer for Millennial Marketers in a Digital Age (2017)

Simply Brilliant: Powerful Techniques to Unlock Your Creativity and Spark New Ideas (2016)

Fail Fast or Win Big: The Start-Up Plan for Starting Now (2015)



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