Environment, talent, and process all encourage the growth of innovation, according to IT research firm CEB, which was recently acquired by Gartner. But there’s a balancing act that must take place between structure and exploration — especially for smaller companies on a fast upward growth curve.
Dublin-based digital search platform startup Pointy is still at that point where the culture is just what it is, without special definitions or structure. “The number of people on our team now is small, almost painfully small,” says co-founder Mark Cummins. “There’s not a lot of structure. Well, there is structure, but there’s not a lot of process around it.”
New tech startups might not have a formula to create culture, but many leaders consider culture an important component for success. Though every company is different, some trends emerge: leaders must be transparent, they must hire for fit, and they must give employees a way to feel that they partially own the company.
“Startup culture doesn’t just mean a stocked kitchen with burritos in the freezer and tons of snacks in the kitchen, or jeans in the office,” says the company’s communications VP Dave Heinzinger. “It means everyone has the ability, from the CEO on down, to roll up their sleeves and really go to work on whatever needs to be done.”
“There has to be a process around the strategy to support the goals of others,” says founder David Pachter. “The people driving innovation are the ones on the front lines, working with clients and products. That groundswell of direction and changes, they don’t happen if you don’t have open channels of communication.”
As the company has grown, according to CEO Alexei Agratchev, it has experienced two “productivity peaks,” where fewer people are doing a huge amount of work. Then new hires are brought on, and the productivity stays about the same for a few months as the growth potential is realized. This can be a frustrating cycle to manage.
Ampush employs about 125 people, COO Nick Shah said, and their level of satisfaction with their colleagues reflects the close relationship he has with his co-founders. In a recent company engagement survey, results showed that 98% of employees who responded really enjoyed working with their colleagues.
CEO Ben Carcio said that it dawned on him one day that his employees would probably enjoy the perks of the job more if they were linked to company goals. One of the most recent incentives that the Promoboxx team earned was half day Fridays for the summer after hitting a revenue goal during the first week of June.