Jami Kelly
How to Build a Thriving Culture Based on Your Company Values

At Upshift Partners, we’re all about helping startups to grow and scale. One area that’s often overlooked in the rush to bring your product to market is the need to develop a strong company culture. Why? Because having defined, cohesive company values enables you to create a team that’s connected by a common set of values, values that you as the Founder establish for your company. And that keeps your engine running smoothly when it’s time to scale.

Here are 6 tips on how some of Silicon Valley’s most accomplished sales dynamos define their company culture based on their core values and beliefs. For more tips on how to scale like the pros, download our new eBook, “59 Tips for Startup Sales Success.”


Arjun Dev Arora – Every company needs a clear set of values.

Knowing your company values impacts everything – from your sales process, to attracting the right people, to reducing stress, to decision making, to being nimble and flexible, and creating a strong company culture overall. Have a 3-4 hour discussion with your partners, executive team, and advisors and nail down 4-5 values that will define your company culture.

For us at ReTargeter, they include: respect, intelligence, hard work, and adaptability. Put them on your website. Make sure your employees know them, and make sure you live them and constantly monitor to make sure they’re being followed. Know what you stand for before you try to scale.

Arjun is the Chairman of the Board and Founder of ReTargeter, where he bootstrapped the company to be in the top 100 of the Inc. 500 list of Fastest Growing Companies for 2013.

David Baga Headshot

David Baga – Act on your stated values.

Take the time to define your team’s core values. Hire for those values and fire to protect those values. Interview for the characteristics that you want your team to represent – I admire people who are creative, strong critical thinkers, analytical, data driven, and passionate about their professional career. They should also know how to have a good time! If you make a mistake (we all do) and hire someone who’s not a fit, you’re going to have to ask them to leave to protect your culture. Yes, even if they’re your best salesperson.

David is SVP of Revenue & Operations for Rocket Lawyer where his team has grown revenues from $2 million to over $40 million in just four years. David spent seven years at Oracle, building and leading sales teams that delivered record-setting results.

2013 Roberge 2

Mark Roberge – Your culture should emphasize sales AND product.

Product is important but you should never skimp on sales in favor of product. Put your money, time and energy into finding the right sales people, creating a culture in which they can thrive, and building a process – it’s just as important, or more, than what you put in toward refining your product.

Mark is the Chief Revenue Officer of the HubSpot Sales Division. HubSpot ranked #33 on the Inc. 500 list of Fastest Growing Companies for 2011, and Mark was ranked #19 in Forbes’ Top 30 Social Sellers in the World.

David Baga – Make continuous learning part of your culture.

Emphasize and invest in training and professional development. Every successful sales organization should have a regular cadence of training that is consistently developing the fundamentals of product knowledge, competitive intelligence, prospecting, opportunity management, territory planning and professional communications.

Arjun Dev Arora- Avoid an excuse-driven culture; develop a results-driven culture.

It’s easy to blame others or situational things (marketing, bad leads, the economy) for poor results. It’s another thing to say, okay, sometimes things don’t go as well as they could. What can we do to change that? Attitude is everything.


Navid Zolfaghari – Culture breeds collaboration.

The spirit of Wildfire was built around collaboration. People came to work early and left late because they felt a sense of purpose and enjoyed the people they worked with. These were people with whom you could learn from, laugh with and share meaningful experiences. The Founders are key to setting this culture, as well as your first few hires. The genuine care that people have for each other goes a long way toward achieving results.

Navid is the Founder of Pinpoint Mobile, formerly the Founder of TriFame online talent discovery site, and an early member at Wildfire Interactive, which was acquired by Google in August 2012 for over $400M.

What does your company culture look like? Do you have a defined set of values that it’s governed by? Tell us about it below.

Get more insights from our “Advice From the Field” posts, featuring in-depth knowledge from each of these advisors.

These tips and many more can be found in our new eBook, “59 Tips for Startup Sales Success.” Download the complete eBook from Upshift Partners.