Street Culture: SweetIQ Empowers Employees to Drive Independent Progress

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Unscripted entrepreneurialism is a wanted commodity in the fast-growing local space.

No formula exists for finding it though, so being able to nurture the spark of innovation is valuable in itself. Michael Mire, co-founder and CRO of local search optimizing software company SweetIQ, is getting better at finding those entrepreneurs and empowering them to drive progress. A flexible, self-starting team is a big part of what makes fast-growing startups like SweetIQ successful.

“In 2013 we had about a dozen employees,” Mire said. “This time in 2014 we had 24 employees, now we’re at about 35 and are looking to double over the next twelve months.”

Barely five years old, Montreal-based SweetIQ saw its revenue double or triple every year since its inception. There will always be challenges that come with growing that fast, Mire said, noting how important it is to inspire employees to work independently.

“Today, everyone controls their own schedule,” he said. “Everyone can come and go as they need to. We trust and empower you to do [your job] on your own schedule.”

Establishing a communication forum is an important part of making that work. It’s too easy for leaders to isolate themselves in work and miss out on noticing problems.

“We take a lot of pride in trying to keep those lines of communication open and make it as easy as possible for people to voice opinions or air issues,” Mire said. “When we were just three people, we used to call it ‘bitch and resolve.’ Now we maintain a twice monthly town hall where we try to maintain those lines of communication.”

That overall goal is lending itself to a connection forming between employees. Problems don’t fix themselves, and opportunities to discuss possible improvements and brainstorm are encouraged. Mire said that the company tries supporting whatever events or projects that employees show interest in, allowing them to decompress at twice-monthly in-office yoga classes, a running club and the oh-so-very Montreal 5-à-7 (that’s a classy name for happy hour).

Carla Bragagnolo, marketing manager, said that she and other employees find inspiration in the non-work events. When the latest version of the company’s software was being rolled out, Bragagnolo and SweetIQ’s head of accounts got talking during a yoga session.

“[Sally] was hearing from her clients that they were concerned with the timing of the transfer [from the old version],” Bragagnolo said. “There were things that we needed to explain better from a marketing perspective, we needed to discuss with clients and create messaging around it for future clients.”

The non-structured opportunities help provide a new perspective on topics that have often already been discussed at length in meetings and via email. Mire said that the best results happen naturally as employees form relationships with each other outside of work.

“Out of office gatherings are what I feel are really helpful to interpersonal relationships,” Mire said. “We find that by sponsoring and supporting organic activities and encouraging those types of events, putting pieces of puzzle in the right places to encourage interpersonal relationships, the management or company doesn’t have to get involved.”

One employee has hosted almost the entire company for a gathering at a cottage north of the city, Mire said. The 2014 event included employees’ families and was such a hit that it is becoming an annual event.

“Knowing each other better allows us to solve problems more creatively and more collaboratively,” Bragagnolo said. “When doing activities outside the office, you naturally just talk about things you’re working on. It helps to think of things in a new way.”

April Nowicki is a contributor to Street Fight.