Editor’s Note: Each week Maynard Webb, former CEO of LiveOps and the former COO of eBay, will offer candid, practical, and sometimes surprising advice to entrepreneurs and founders. To submit a question, write to Webb at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Q. We are growing quickly and adding new executives. I’m worried about how to keep our culture as we insert new people at the top.
— First-time founder of an e-commerce company
Congrats on this growth. You are adding people for a reason and as a result, your company is changing. Evolution is good. It means things are working as they should.
Instead of fearing a change for your culture, embrace this as a positive opportunity to advance it. New people who possess skills that your company needs and bring diverse perspectives will contribute to your culture, not take away from it.
Think about this as you make your hires; choose people who will help you and your culture grow. For founders and CEOs—particularly those who are early in their careers—I can’t recommend enough the value of bringing in people who will commit to helping you grow as a leader. I’ve learned from people I’ve worked with in more ways than I can tell you, benefitting greatly from their years of experience managing different problems, different organizations, and different attitudes.
Your culture will change over time. You must enable this, while at the same time, staying true to the values that define you. In order to do so, ask yourself some important questions starting on Day One and continue asking these same questions throughout your company’s life. Do a culture check every six months with the question: Do we still believe in this? Understand that what used to work won’t always work, so be ready to change. Decide which elements of your culture you will take with you as you grow, and which you will leave behind.
What works when you have three founders doesn’t work for fifty people or five hundred people, or five thousand people. We had to address this issue at eBay. We had to figure out how to stay true to our core values while at the same time being open to changing some of our practices. We never lost the focus that we were a marketplace and job number one was making our buyers and sellers successful, but we did change some processes. For example, I couldn’t make every final decision on new features or every budget line item as we got bigger.
I believe that authenticity is a crucial element of the strongest cultures, as it provides a solid foundation that is also flexible and fluid. This type of culture comes from creating, modeling—and staying true to—something you believe in.