AvePoint, a Jersey City-based tech company that helps migrate, manage, and protect Office 365 data, has a classic two-people-in-a-garage backstory. The founders, Tianyi Jiang and Kai Gong, built their first product in a local public library, and the company has now grown to about 1,500 employees.
“It’s all about personal development,” says Qiigo CEO Rick Batchelor of his approach to cultural management. “What works for them, what do they want, where do they see themselves in 12, 24, 36 months, and then help them make a plan to grow toward that.”
Adcellerant has been on Inc.’s Best Workplaces list for the last two years and ranked as the No. 2 best place to work in Colorado for a medium-sized company this year by the Denver Business Journal. The company was founded in 2013 and currently employs about 40 people.
Kevin Clark is pulled in a lot of different directions these days: having joined digital knowledge SaaS company Synup less than a year ago, he’s trying to hire lots of new employees, he’s in charge of business logistics on which he’s not necessarily an expert, and his boss might call him at any moment.
Channel marketing automation company SproutLoud had a circular problem: the turnover was bad, which was bad for employee morale, which was causing more turnover. The company’s internal culture was deteriorating—a point at which many startups have struggled to reset their environments, and a point at which SproutLoud’s leadership team took responsibility.
CEO Robert Blatt says the company culture is changing, focusing more on what it means for MomentFeed to be the best place for employees to work. Anticipating change in culture is essential, he says, because what your company is doing well in one period of evolution can prevent it from doing well in the next.
“I think that culture is one of the few problems that you have to address before they’re problems,” says TechStars co-founder and co-CEO David Brown. “If you’re struggling to figure out how to grow sales, you can wait until sales are in trouble and still turn it around. But if you wait until you’re in trouble with culture, it’s really hard to turn that boat.”
“How we view mistakes is you admit it, you learn very quickly, and then turn it around,” says Sitter.me CEO and co-founder Kristen Stiles. After quoting a client a wrong price, Stiles owned up to the error, and the company develop a new procedure to ensure similar stakes would not be made again.
After three years reporting on “Street Culture,” Street Fight looks back on five ways that company leaders are making their company culture stand out—and some of the best pieces of advice for doing the same at your business.
Justin Angsuwat, Thumbtack’s vice president of people, says the Thumbtack team describes its company culture as the “Midwest of cultures.”
Based a mile from the beach in Santa Barbara, Invoca aims to maintain a culture in which employees know their ideas are important. The company sponsors softball games and ocean-side volleyball and boasts its own band.
“Introducing [new employees] to the culture has been very important; it’s important that the people we hire are growth-oriented,” PacketZoom co-founder Chetan Ahuja says. “We want them to already be useful to the business, but their main goal is to grow and to grow with the company. They’re much more valuable that way.”
“We want people who have historically been lucky. People who have demonstrated the ability to go out and create their own luck,” CEO Michael Katz says. “People who are curious, who engage and ask questions and generally listen, [who are] not just waiting for a pause in the conversation. “
Getting rid of job titles and helping people detach from job titles are two of the biggest challenges around refocusing a company on its culture and its values, CTO John Schnipkoweit says. At Choozle, the culture is focused around the product it is creating, and allowing that product to drive the company.
“It’s really important that [staff] understand how their work contributes to the company objective, rather than just being busy and doing things and not knowing whether it has an impact on the company goals and outcomes,” says the company’s CEO, Ian O’Rourke .
Wholesale ecommerce retailer Boxed is taking its position as team leader seriously. The company pays for its employees’ kids to go to college. It looked at the industry-wide “pink tax” and started a campaign against the higher prices. It even started contributing $20,000 to pay for employees’ weddings.
Street Culture: Female Leaders at Main Street Hub Highlight Group Dynamics and Diversity in Communication
At marketing automation and CRM company Main Street Hub, the product engineering team has grown from six people to 30 in three years. The entire company employs more than 500 people, so in the product, engineering, and design department, the leadership is proud of the diversity and success they have achieved.
Hooch isn’t hiring right now, but they expect to ramp up technology and data positions in fall 2017. Dai says his secret to hiring is to be brutally honest about the challenges and struggles of working at startup.
“In the hiring process, we often use the terms ‘smart, hungry, and humble,’” says Zaius CEO Mark Gally. “This notion of being humble is really a critical component of culture. We don’t take ourselves seriously, but we take our work extremely seriously.”