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Creating Culture in a Startup

Small business success depends greatly on a company's culture. Director of Operations Kris Reid shares her thoughts on how modPALEO is putting its best foot forward.

Learn more about our healthy home food delivery company's culture!The Harvard Business Review published a piece some time ago about company culture. They listed six common components of a great culture being ‘vision, values, practices, people, narrative and place.’ Every company has a culture, although I think its safe to say that many, especially small businesses, are not intentionally managing their culture. Most are consumed with the daily operations, keeping products flowing in and out, making the payroll and fighting tooth and nail for their margin. It’s no place for the faint hearted – especially small businesses in the food service industry. It’s a tough game that is loaded with long days, extreme stress and that is plagued with high turnover if the culture goes unmanaged.

It wasn’t until I came to modPALEO that I had ever worked with owners so committed to creating and managing the culture. It’s challenging to carve out that time, but it is also necessary as we recognize the evolving work force, which often times is motivated by a job that provides work/life balance and that is the ‘right fit’ culturally for them. But how do you manage something intangible like ‘culture’?

Start-ups are anything but static environments and modPALEO is no exception to this rule! We are entering our 5th year of business, and like any fast-growing company, right when all the positions are filled, people are properly trained and we have ‘figured it all out,’ we hit the restart button on a process due to equipment or technology upgrades. There is a lot that goes into those trays of food - from the menu planning and development, to the sourcing, executing the meals, packaging them, and shipping them. So what keeps us moving in the same direction regardless of roadblocks and pitfalls has a lot to do with the ‘intangibles.’

Transparency from the start is important here! Everyone we hire knows that we are growing and the environment here is fluid, with lots of opportunity to change and influence outcomes. We talk about our purpose on a regular basis so that the VISION remains our True North. As a result we all carry the company VALUES and understand how we personally influence the ‘big picture.’ Our PRACTICES are baked into every meal we cook and deliver: Our employees understand and embrace our commitment to our customers and recognize one poor review from a customer reflects on us all, just as one amazing compliment warrants high fives! (We love high fives. And fist bumps.)

The thing that really makes our controlled chaos click is the staff, the managers, the PEOPLE that spend 5 to 6 days a week, busting hump to move raw foods to finished goods through our system. These are the magic makers and what keeps our show on the road! Weekly meetings are crucial in producing that magic show, and this time together is themed primarily on performance. We share our previous weekly revenues and some of our current and relevant challenges. This gives everyone an opportunity to be heard and allows upper management the floor to share our risks and opportunities. We encourage our employees to bring their thoughts and ideas, as we know listening to them helps us generate new and needed processes and procedures as well as an opportunity to learn something new. Many times this sort of transparency reveals something about management styles that can be improved upon or changed. Regardless, it helps us to grow in a healthy and cohesive way reviewing previous weeks and writing our script for weeks ahead.

We wouldn’t have this sort of relationship with each other if we didn’t all embrace the NARRATIVE of modPALEO. The story of this business is one that creates a sense of urgency and is the constant reminder to us that we are working to help people make better food choices, and we believe those choices are the basis for health, wellness and longevity. Our employees enjoy those choices too through our employee meal program and grocery program. Every week our employees are allowed to place an order for groceries to take home. The bill is then deducted from their paycheck, giving them a quick, convenient, wholesale discount on clean local food for their families.

There is a balance that businesses have to accomplish in order to retain staff these days and a lot of that has to do with ‘company culture.’ I find that balance exists in providing a welcoming environment for employees to be heard and contribute to the big picture, in the soft benefits small businesses can offer and driving home company values and its narrative. We provide the purpose. They provide their will, and their ideas contribute daily along the way.

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