What Does Work “Culture” Really Mean?


“Culture” is one of those buzzwords that gets thrown around a great deal in the startup space, but what does it really mean and how do you create it?

 The reason I pose these questions are because often times people, candidates and even employees confuse culture with cool things like: catered lunches, an edgy office or maybe even “SeQuaL” (SQL) the company cat. Please don’t get me wrong, I think some of these things are great and they certainly add to the company’s environment, but what happens to culture if “SeQuaL”  jumps out the window of our first-floor startup, making a mad dash for Catopia? Would that mean culture went out the window with her?

I believe it has to be much deeper than that.  Culture is a mindset, a philosophy and it is a way of being. So, how is culture created? For starters, it's automatic and can be discovered in the company’s mission, in the way the company makes decisions and in the people, who have deposited sweat equity. Culture is like a fruit, it's either ripening or rotting, growing or dying, being developed or destroyed and it takes work and commitment, just like all great things do.

Here are a few things that I consistently pay attention to and monitor here at Pefin to make sure we stay on track with culture:


  • The number one asset we have here at Pefin is our people. As Head of Talent, I have a big responsibility to the Pefin Team to make sure that the new talent fits our value system, our mindset and understands our culture along with the important part they play in adding to it. We also do “Culture Coffee Dates”, with all new hires approximately one to three weeks after they start, to see how they are acclimating to their environment. We also try to meet with the vets of the organization for “Culture Coffee Dates” in order to learn where we are winning, where we have changed and where we can do better.


  • It all starts and stops with the example of the leadership. Our leadership team sets an excellent example of our culture as well as of servant leadership, making it very difficult to not buy into the mission and culture. Our philosophy is that the team doesn’t need a motto to say they need a model to follow.


  • Get sticky! People are most happy, productive and driven when they are in PURSUIT of a worthwhile vision or goal. So give your team buy-in, give them a purpose. Let them have some say in the construction of the empire and you will find that giving them that skin in the game will give your organization some major “stickage”.

So although culture is automatic, having a strong and supportive company culture is not automatic and it requires attention. People, Example and Stickyness can be a great framework to help with the checks and balances of culture.

Eddie Renard, Head of Talent, Pefin

Jay Gopalakrishnan