How to Build Culture from Day 1, Even in a Pandemic with Guissu Baier

Guissu Baier

Building a successful company is so much more than finding product/market fit. It is equally about culture: How you behave, communicate, create accountability, celebrate wins and learn from failures. With a deliberate culture strategy, founders can make the best hires and drive outsized results. Guissu Baier, co-founder of The People Collective and a former VP of HR at Instacart, explains the core cultural competencies and how to shape your culture from Day One.

Register at Founders Network for Guissu’s seminar on building culture, and find out if you qualify for full membership and and get tips on: 

  • Core Cultural Competencies 
  • Establishing Your Values
  • Reinforcing Your Culture
  • Building Culture Remotely
“Companies that put culture first have a higher probability of succeeding, and the best companies have a point of view when it comes to their culture.” - @foundersnetwork Share on X

Building a strong company culture is about much more than just slogans on a wall. Culture is the glue that holds your startup together, and can mean the difference between a high successful company and one that struggles or fails. Yet too often, creating a deliberate culture is an afterthought, or a process that’s initiated too late in the game. 

There are considerable risks in neglecting your company culture, which range from falling short of business goals to serious reputational risk. And there are several core competencies that founders need to consider in shaping a culture, according to Guissu Baier of The People Collective, a talent, people and culture strategy firm focused on early-stage and high-growth companies. Prior to co-founding The People Collective, Guissu was an employment attorney and VP of human resources at Instacart, ushering the company through a critical growth stage.

“Having a culture strategy is not just important for employee experience; it makes good business sense. The best companies have a point of view when it comes to their culture,” she says. 

“At its core, culture is defining your vision, mission and values, and operationalizing those principles so they are more than words on a page, posters on a wall, or tag lines,” Guissu explains. “It’s about thinking about the entire employee life cycle, how you hire and onboard, developing your managers and leaders, your compensation structure, and goal setting.” 

“Think about what behaviors exist that are making you successful as a company, and hold people accountable to those behaviors.” - @foundersnetwork Share on X

Culture begins to form the minute two people start working together, and evolves with each hire. As you grow, codifying your vision, mission and values in a way that is authentic to the founders’ DNA, is an important first step toward shaping a  purposeful and deliberate culture.

“Think about what behaviors exist that are making you successful as a company, and hold people accountable to those behaviors,” Guissu adds. “Consider the tradeoffs of those norms and how they are advancing the company and how they are holding you back.” 

An honest assessment of your values will help set expectations for new hires and will inform your approach to performance and talent development. 

So often companies treat codifying their values as a marketing exercise rather than a business imperative that serves as the foundation for how you invest in the team — one of your most critical and expensive assets.  

“The pandemic has amplified the importance of building a strong culture of connection, communication and accountability.” - @foundersnetwork Share on X

Since the pandemic, employees are meeting in person far less frequently if at all. Even the strongest cultures are being challenged in unprecedented ways and it is shining a black light on the company’s strengths and weaknesses. It presents a unique opportunity to focus on culture. 

“Remote work is amplifying all of the things that you should be doing anyway as a company,” Guissu adds. “For example: How are you approaching internal communications? What are you messaging? How are you listening? As we rely more on digital channels and zoom meetings, how can we create connections and ensure we are focused on the right goals?” 

“There is less room for error in the remote work era and the external political and social atmosphere is placing a heavier load on companies of all sizes to support their teams,” Guissu notes.

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