What Magnum P.I. taught me about Culture

by Adam Metcalf

When it comes to a laid back, yet exciting culture,  it was hard to beat Magnum P.I. (Private Investigator). Not only did he kick it on the 200 acre beachfront estate in Hawaii, known as the Robin’s Nest, he drove around a Ferrari, fought crime with one of the most manly staches you have ever laid eyes on and had a fridge that had a seemingly endless supply of beer. He was one cool dude. But a laid back, exciting culture doesn’t really amount to much unless it is accompanied with prayer and intentionality. That is what “P.I.” should represent for any faith-driven entrepreneur.

I’ve learned in this entrepreneurial journey that there is an easy temptation to be laid back, throw in some excitement and just watch awesome culture happen. This sort of laissez-faire approach almost always ends in disaster. A non-prayerful and non-intentional culture isn’t just a culture that shapes itself, it is a dangerous culture that destroys. This truth was quite evident at Uber, Theranos and Zenefits in 2017. Those are but a few unicorn examples of when culture implodes. There are thousands of others that have imploded at start-ups we’ve never even heard of.

Getting culture right is crucial. It is an absolutely essential aspect to daily life at your company. It profoundly influences retention and it informs future recruitment. It directly impacts the quality of life for each member of the team. According to TinyPulse's research, 64% of employees don't feel their company has a strong culture. And according to Fidelity's research, millennials are willing to give up $7,600 per year to work for a company with great culture. Needless to say, you want to get culture right!

Here are two must-dos for faith-driven entrepreneurs:

1.  Be prayerful

Whether you are starting a company now or you are presently running one, commit yourself to prayer for guidance and direction as to what your culture should look like. God originally created a world in which there was infinite beauty, limitless freedom and eternal peace and joy. And he is bringing it back! So look to Him. He knows a thing or two about great culture. 

Look to faith-driven innovators in the culture space. When we revamped our culture at ZeeMee (a story for another day), I borrowed a lot from what Henry Kaestner implemented at Bandwidth and Matt Rissel put in place at TSheets. Check out an interview with Henry here and read Matt’s credo here.

2. Be Intentional

If you think that culture is just going to happen. You are right. It will happen. But if you aren’t intentional, something bad will happen. A lot of startups make the mistake of thinking that culture is great because they just raised several million dollars. That fresh new office space, those catered lunches, the swag; it is all a part of building a great culture, right? Be careful not to assume your culture is the summation of the perks, benefits and superficial niceties that accompany life in Silicon Valley. These are merely a house of cards that can crumble in an instance. Cultures built on the assumption that the good times will last forever, are naive at best and unethical at worst.

From the beginning, work to establish a core credo of who you are as a company and what you believe. This allows you to build a solid foundation that everyone on the team can cling to when the waters get rough. Make sure every employee knows exactly what you believe and affirm as a company and consistently reiterate it to the team.

Wrapping it up

The next time you are binge watching Magnum P.I. on a Saturday, so for most of you, that will be this weekend. Look past the stache (if that is possible), look past the beauty of the Robin’s Nest and get private investigator out of your mind. Think prayer and intentionality. There is so much to be written on culture. This barely scratches the surface. I am a padewon to the padewons. So definitely do yourself a huge favor and check out some of the masters linked above.

Editor's Note:  Adam is another great friend of FDE and of Inklings (he's been instrumental in helping to encourage a local meetup of faith driven entrepreneurs in Northern California).  His post is another in a series of those that we hope to solicit from young entrepreneurs who are in the throes of launching their enterprise and feel that they have a story to share with others as a means of encouragement.

Adam is the Co-Founder of ZeeMee and a faith-driven entrepreneur in training. His views on Magnum P.I.’s stache are his own and do not necessarily reflect the viewpoints of the blog.