Funding & Culture: Buying in Does Not Have to Mean Selling Out

A strong round of funding can sometimes mean the difference between a company remaining a great local place to work or becoming a national powerhouse. However, the debate to seek or accept a funding round can be a difficult debate for some start-ups. The decision to accept funding may stem from how you interpret and process change. For many, change is frightening.

Why is that? For most change is seen as negative. However, change does not have to be negative. Change is often inevitable and is something we should welcome to ensure we evolve. However, where change tends to hurt an organization is not related to product sets or benefits/perks – it is when the change occurs at the cultural level. When employees feel that ‘something has shifted’ in an uncomfortable, uncertain or negative way, it tends to mean they are looking at the door and wondering if it is their time to step through it.

The City of Austin has seen an influx of funding (both VC and private investors) in 2017 with roughly $400+ million injected into a variety of companies across the city. For those that have benefited from these resources, you could end up facing a concern or two regarding growth or how to hold onto a cultural spark that may have helped you receive that funding in the first place. Here are some core considerations to keep in mind as you map out changes in your company and where you may want to invest moving forward.

Don’t Forget Who You Are

  • Your investors, employees and partners selected you for a reason. Just because you have more resources does not mean you should change that. Your mission statement and values should be enhanced by funding not decimated by it.

Don’t Forget Who Brought You to the Dance

  • I don’t mean your investors. It can be very easy to overlook your employees during times of transition as you try to map out your new ‘big picture.’ However, it’s your talent that ultimately defines you. Yes, your CEO’s leadership or charisma may be what outsiders ‘know’ about a brand from a media or perception standpoint but it’s the work of the staff that keeps customers coming back and paying the bills. Remember the values you first identified – they should be the same ones you use to anchor you as you grow. As you make new hires, bring on new vendors or bridge partnerships, ask yourself if this person/group embodies (or supports) your values. The wrong addition to the mix can be like inserting poison directly into your team.

Don’t Forget What Your Competitors Have Accomplished

  • Your funding round was a huge accomplishment, but it doesn’t mean you have reached the mountain top. One of the hardest things for a young company to remember is that they are still a fledgling brand. You should be excited about what you do and believe you can take down any competitor. That confidence will seep into your team and ensure them you are did not simply ‘sell out’ and that you are still ‘in it to win it.’ However, don’t for a moment think you are on par with a brand that has been around for 10, 20, 30 years. You may have the technological edge on them but they have had years of marketing investment that will have them in the articles, award lists or reports you think you belong in for years to come. That competitor put the time and resources behind earning that place in the public’s eye. Rather than be frustrated by it, ask yourself – what are you going to do to earn that place?

It can take companies years to build a culture, a vision and a mission…but it only takes a moment to destroy them. Keep these items in mind as you begin to make changes in your company. Also, don’t assume you have to make such changes in a vacuum. Remember your agency team may not be ‘in-house’ but we do understand people and your business. We are always happy to have conversations or be part of brainstorms and weigh in from a strategic level on what the impact a change in direction could mean for your employees, your partners or the media’s perception of you.

Matt Trocchio
Vice President


Keep in Touch

Want fresh perspective on communications trends & strategy? Sign up for the SHIFT/ahead newsletter.

Ready to shift ahead?

Let's talk