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Company culture is exactly what you have left once you remove the fancy office

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”

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