RTL News interviewed Fortify founder Paul Musters for their special on startup investment
“Great company culture is crucial to success. Not only does this ring true for big organisations, it’s also of great importance to startups and scale-ups.”
So Paul Musters states six years after he founded his company Fortify. With Fortify, he helps startups and scale-ups form a winning team.
“I don’t concern myself with recruitment. Instead I help startups map their team and define corresponding business challenges. On the basis of this analysis, I can predict future pitfalls allowing companies to proactively anticipate challenges to their success.
Three stages of Company Culture
Musters explains that startups and scale-ups can be categorised into three different stages: starting, discovery and growth. Each phase requires a different approach to the culture.
1. Starting: the right motivations
In the starting phase of a company, you need the right mix of personalities. People’s’ personality types are determined by a team scan developed by Fortify. Musters: “Team members fill out a questionnaire and are categorised according to type. We base the categorisation mostly on personal motivations of different team members. Are they money driven, lifestyle driven, product driven or problem driven?”
The perfect team shares main motivators, with slight variations between team members. “Startups in sustainability often only have problem driven team members. A major pitfall is that nobody thinks about creating a profitable and scalable business model. That might require a more money driven team member.”
“In the starting phase of a company, you need the right mix of personalities.”
2. Discovery: Thinkers and Doers
During the second phase, discovery, it needs to be clear what the strengths and preferences of each team member are. “Everyone can be categorised as a thinker or a doer” according to Musters. “Practically no-one can research and analyse (thinker) as well as they can execute (doer). And practically no-one enjoys both equally. Most doers actually become extremely unhappy when you ask them to write up an in-depth analysis.”
Fortify maps the ratio of thinkers versus doers in the team and predicts future issues that can arise. “We can estimate where friction will arise according to the composition of the team. Then it’s the startups own prerogative to act to prevent issues.”
3. Growth: Culture is crucial
Finally, startups enter the growth phase. Company culture can make or break the trajectory of a company during this phase. Musters: “People often assume that culture only starts playing a role for larger organisations of over 100 people. However, smaller companies already have a specific culture.” Musters defines culture by what goes on in the company when the founders are not at the office?
“Company culture is defined by:
what goes on in the company when the founders and managers are not at the office?”
Startups often try to create a great company culture by offering free lunches or inhabiting fancy offices with swing sets and hammocks. “Yet company culture is exactly what you have left once you remove such tangible factors. The importance of the bond between employees and the level of trust becomes way more visible.”
“Company culture is exactly what you have left once you remove the hammocks and luxury lunches from your fancy office”
How a company measures and evaluates results is also extremely important in the growth phase. This includes negative results. “Especially companies that acknowledge their mistakes and share this internally and externally are successful. In order to do this, people need to feel comfortable and safe. So company culture can again make all the difference.” concludes Musters.
Company Culture Scan
Fortify measures the extremely important company culture with their Culture Scan. Musters: “The results of the Culture Scan are more likely to show issues than company results. We look at the employees: their energy levels for example. When they’re no longer satisfied about such things, it’s often a sign that they lack structure and coordination. Something I encountered recently at a company that grew a lot in a short period of time, maybe too much. It becomes key to act at a moment like that. If you don’t, you’ll see that reflected in your balance sheet.”
“If you don’t build up your culture as fast as you grow your company, you’ll see that reflected in your balance sheet”
25 founders came together at Scale Up Academy, an initiative from Accenture Innovation Awards. Together with the audience, Paul Musters interviewed two special guests from extraordinary companies, in this interview: the Chief of Growth at the developer of the first production car that is powered by the sun: Lightyear’s Maijke Receveur!
Paul: Chief Growth, that is one cool title, what does it mean?
We started Lightyear two years ago. We were with 7 people, and of course there were some gaps that all starting companies have. At that moment you fulfill 10 different roles if it isn’t more, and so did I. We started hiring our first employees. Quite unexpectedly, we received many responses from all over the world from people who would like to work at our company!
The positive thing at that moment was that we grew really fast, but we also found out the risks. We started to need the right resources to facilitate that growth. So forming HR, office, and production buildings, the right culture, and values that we can build on. Therefore it became a proactive role in facilitating the company to grow.
Paul: I know you had your own company. You were a well-paid strategy consultant. Why did you choose to work for Lightyear?
Because of the shining eyes, I would say. It was the energy I got from the company and the mission. That inspired me. Most of the time of my week I’m spending on work, and in the end, I want to be fully energetic about the work that I do. And I like to support this mission because we genuinely aim to mean something good for our world. That is something I hope everybody can support.
Audience: Are you planning/managing to grow internationally or nationally?
We have just one office, in the Netherlands. But we do have 12 nationalities from around the world working at our company.
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