Is 'corporate culture' really such a bad thing?

Earlier in this Spotlight series we took a look at how tech start-ups are redefining the idea of company culture, through fresh approaches to teambuilding, office design and workplace dynamics.

To delve a little deeper into the cultural shift we spoke with Jennifer Chiang, co-founder and CEO of MuseFind - a platform to organise and manage influencer marketing - who gives us her view on the benefits of adopting a tech start-up culture and the relationship between productivity and more traditional corporate structures.

Hey Jennifer, tell us a bit about your office culture.

Every single person in the team is responsible for the ‘company’ culture, and ultimately, this empowers them to change and uplift it. The whole team knows of the goals, how much funding we’re raising, who we’re hiring, what the process for hiring is etc. Culturally, we’re intense but have a good balance of empathy. Everyone’s on the ball and knows what needs to get done. At the same time, we incorporate play and creativity. For example, our doors are whiteboards and we have ping pong in the office.

Have you found that having a ‘tech start-up culture’ has helped the MuseFind team grow together? What are some of fun things your team does together?

Yes and no. Some people don’t participate in these activities, so we often try different ways of incorporating them into the ‘play’ part of start-ups. We have less alcohol drinkers in our team than previously, which is a bit of a shift from the ‘typical’ tech start-up culture. I think what this encourages is healthier, more human-to-human interactions vs. the typical ‘frat’ start-up culture. Balance is key.

Typically, we have events to get out of the office monthly. However, MuseFind went through a substantial product pivot recently so the team has been pulling long hours. My comment is that it’s critical to be deliberate in explaining to the team why or why not we’re having team events. They will appreciate, respect, and understand the transparency.

Read: Why do adults play with Lego?

Do you think the casual vibe and fun of start-up culture is beneficial to the wellbeing of employees?

Yes. The work is so intense, and you really have to have a certain type of personality to be able to function and succeed in a start-up.

Do you think there is better professional cooperation because of your start-up culture?

"Professional" is probably far from what I’d describe a start-up culture. If you’re asking about teamwork, 100 per cent yes. Because of our main two values of Trust and Transparency, the team works and operates with that in mind and makes sure that their work is of high quality when passed to another team member. Everyone respects and realises that everything that you do and everything that you don’t do have significant impacts on the business and team.

How do you think your productivity and output would be affected if you operated in a more corporate manner?

I think it depends on the size and people in your start-up. At our current stage, we couldn’t move as quickly and fluidly if we had more corporate structure. Being in a start-up gives you the rarest advantage: moving quickly. With scale, you will need a more corporate structure to facilitate projects. The hardest challenge is that you lose that fluid communication channel that comes with being in a less structured environment.

This is a guest blog and may not represent the views of Virgin.com. Please see virgin.com/terms for more details.

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