Why businesses want a startup culture (even when they’re not a startup)

One can’t help but be envious of culture associated with startups: flexible hours, no dress code, fun offices with open breakout spaces, happy and productive employees with no clear hierarchy, and an open-minded approach to innovation.

With that picture in mind, there’s a lot to love about startups: they’re often fun, energetic environments.

Yet it seems their biggest advantage is not in their laid-back breakout spaces or their ping-pong tables.

It’s in their hunger to innovate and grow, as well as their ability to pivot quickly in their product offering; elements many small- and medium-sized companies struggle to keep pace with in the fast-moving technology-fuelled climate.

A 2015 Forrester Research report suggests that not only does a traditional corporate culture fail to encourage innovation; it impedes it.

Traditional business meeting

Businesses with a traditional corporate culture fail to encourage innovation, a Forrester Research report suggests.

But now a suite of big businesses, including electronics giant Samsung, are looking to startups for inspiration.

They’re devising new strategies to compete with their younger, nimbler counterparts by reforming company culture to embrace startup principles.

For companies like Samsung, this might involve streamlining internal bureaucracy, cutting back on inefficient meetings and putting a cap on excessive working hours.

According to the Forrester report, companies with a digital presence and business focus require a radically different corporate culture that’s concerned with improving customer experience and encouraging a more open and collaborative approach to innovation.

In attempting to create a youthful, dynamic and innovative environment, many established businesses – well-matured beyond the startup phase – are finding that a startup’s mentality, energy and ethos are possible to embed into their culture.

So how does a business benefit from emulating a startup culture?

Startups take nimble approaches to work

Once upon a time, ‘nimble’, ‘lean’ and ‘agile’ were words that you’d be more likely to encounter watching Animal Planet than a board meeting.

Fostering a startup culture that is less formal, and less bogged down in bureaucracy is a way to differentiate your business and keep pace with rapidly changing customer expectations and behaviours.

Startup business with casual workplace environment

Startup businesses are known to have casual work environments, and use agile working methods.

In a statement, Samsung explained their rationale in nurturing a startup culture was to avoid unnecessary red tape, execute work at greater speed, and foster innovation.

Startups appear to foster creativity

CEOs rank creativity as the most important attribute needed for prosperity, according to a 2010 IBM study that interviewed 1500 CEOs.

Most likely, it’s a quality your company values more than it lets on.

Ravin Gandhi, co-founder of cookware non-stick surface coating company GMM, explains that creativity and innovation are crucial for any business’ survival.

“Your business needs them to live,” he says. “Your business will die if you don’t innovate”.

However, creativity doesn’t necessarily come from having beanbags or breakout spaces; rather it needs an environment of encouragement and flexibility.

Startups offer attractive perks to top talent

Hiring and retaining top talent concerns every business.

And it can be said that happy employees make for a happy company, and a startup culture often makes for happy employees.

Startup business employees enjoying themselves

 There is a general perception that employees of startups are happier than those working in large, corporate workplaces.

A startup culture is known to nurture employee talent and rewards their efforts, making the role much more appealing to the best and brightest.

According to executive search agent Warwick Peel of headhunting company Search360, larger companies are now requesting candidates who are entrepreneurial thinkers and creative executors.

The pace of change within the digitised economy has led large companies to desire the agility of a startup culture.

“Big companies want to remain competitive against the disruptive influence of startups and their quick access to customers,” Peel says.