By Poyen Ramos on January 3, 2017
Had you asked me 3 years ago when I was working on other entrepreneurial projects, what the most important thing about running a business is, I wouldn’t have said culture. I was wrong.
However, having worked for about a decade, I can now tell you that culture is everything. It is the thing that drives a team towards a common goal, it is what motivates people to work hard, and it is the fuel that fires innovation. You can’t arbitrarily define a culture for a business. It has to develop from the hearts (and minds) of the founders, and the way to have (at least) some control over that development is to have strict frameworks for hiring; and policies in place to ensure culture is protected.
If you want to have a fun culture, make sure you hire fun people. If you want to have a performance driven culture, make sure you hire over-achievers. If you want an innovation culture, make sure you make sure your team is as diverse as possible.
As a high-growth company, it is extremely challenging to be exceptionally selective as the organization demands more resource. But I caution all entrepreneurs, make sure you have a cultural guardian — if not the CEO, make sure it’s another co-founder. Ideally, culture guardianship should be driven by the founders. At ServisHero, every full-time candidate must meet with either Paul, Jason or Myself (after undergoing at least 2 interviews with other senior members of our team)—we are the cultural guardians for the organization. We know to have longevity as a technology company we need to ensure everyone that joins us is aligned with our spirit of innovation, inclusiveness and achievement.
On policies to protect culture
As we scale, we know it will become ever more difficult to maintain our culture, but we have started laying down the frameworks and processes to maintain our unique culture. We do this a couple of ways:
1. Regular meetings
Each team has regular meetings (daily or weekly) and changing the times of these meetings requires some act of god!
2. ServisHero Swarm
This is an invention by Paul, and something that has helped us maintain momentum in the organization. ServisHero Swarm is our weekly regional meeting — everyone dials in via video conference to: a) receive thanks; b) get strategic updates; c) be introduced to new team-members; d) get briefed on targets and performance.
This weekly update is our way, as founders, to foster a culture of radical transparency. We know that for our team to be aligned with our vision, they need to know what is happening in our heads. The meetings are not long, and in fact there is a timekeeper to ensure no one speaks for longer than the allocated time.
There are no offices at SerivsHero — no one, including myself sits in a room where we may be seen to be inaccessible. If we are to transmit our values, we must be accessible and approachable.
Every Friday, Courtney calls for requests for our Friday music playlist requests over slack. From 6pm, we let loose and we socialize. There is no better way to cement a culture than to get everyone to mingle and exchange their thoughts. This is just one of many ways where we foster socialization.
Today, co-founders hold themselves accountable to maintain the culture. In the future, we will need managers to help keep us accountable. Intra-company, every employee has an unwritten rule with each other to uphold our values. In addition to an unspoken rule, every employment offer letter comes with an Appendix of our core values — to accept our offer means acceptance of our core values. We’ve had this Appendix since day 1.
I hope entrepreneurs and aspiring entrepreneurs take note that it’s not just financial performance metrics that drive the success of an organization. Nor is it about the rate of growth of your company. It’s about the people, it’s about culture. A big shout-out to my co-founder, Paul for reminding me constantly that culture is everything.