Defining Company Culture
Over the last 20 years, I’ve had the privilege to work with and/or invest in 34 start-up companies that have raised a combined total of over $3.2 billion in growth equity, employed 2,800+, and achieved over $1 billion in combined revenues (stats from the time of my involvement). This group consists of companies that have gone public, private companies that are thriving to the public, and private companies that no longer exist.
There are many intangible and uncontrollable factors that lead to a company’s success—from the economy and governmental policies to things that can be controlled—such as go-to-market strategies and product-market fit. But in my experience, the number one thing that separates the best-performing companies from the rest is excellent company culture.
When I spoke with the management and teams of these successful companies and asked them what they thought made their companies great, these are a few common responses I received:
- Employees felt like their contributions directly attributed to company performance
- Employees genuinely enjoyed working with their colleagues and supervisors
- Employees loved the working environment (both physical and operational)
- Employees felt like they were changing the world by disrupting the corporate incumbents or changing the rules by creating new technologies
- Employees loved coming to work every day (the most common response)
So, in 2013 when we developed the business plan to spin LiveAction out we started with “culture.” This was a shift in thinking for many of our team members. I recall back to one of our first MVV (Mission-Vision-Values) events, where the entire team gathered around a blank piece of paper and one of the team members raised their hand and asked me, “So what do you want the vision to be?” Needless to say, we immediately shifted to an environment where everyone is expected to contribute. Sometimes we don’t initially agree, but we commit to keeping an open-mind to discuss and debate concepts. This process takes time, but eventually, we get to a vision that has meaning and is shared by the group.
Here are some additional concepts we employ to support the LiveAction culture:
- We’re growing fast, but we take the time in the interview process to ensure there is a true culture fit before we hire someone. This often includes multiple meetings in different environments with various members of the team (both direct and indirect).
- No PTO tracking. We value everyone’s contributions and don’t put a cap on team members’ days off. We do care about high-levels of performance and achievement, so of course, we don’t tolerate anyone to be reckless about excessive time off.
- No private offices. In our offices, we enjoy being able to hear each other work and are “always-on” to help team members and customers. Sometimes this means leaning over the desk to ask a colleague to jump on a call when we don’t have the answers.
- Everyone is an owner. We want to work with people who treat the company as if they own it because they do. This makes everyone more accountable and keeps the office cleaner :).
Work hard, play hard. We take our products very seriously, drive hard deadlines hold the line on deliverables, expect the highest quality of work, and demand excellence from everyone. But, in between these deadlines and expectations, we play hard too. This includes killer team dinners with ample storytelling by all and occasionally throwing legendary parties like our Series B closing party at Hakkasan.
Here are our current Mission-Vision-Values:
Revolutionize the network by establishing LiveAction as the visualization and analytics standard.
Our vision is for LiveAction to deliver kickass solutions to simplify the network while providing our team members an awesome personal and professional life.
Values – We are determined to win
- Create remarkable experiences for our customers, partners, and teams
- Drive kickass innovation and change
- Open, honest communication
- Empowered, Accountable and Respectful
Here are our departmental commitments to each other:
Marketing – “Count on Us”
- Timely, Thorough & Responsive Communication
- Efficient and Effective Processes
- Drive the Pipeline
Customer Experience – “Connecting the customer to LiveAction”
- Provide closed-loop feedback to Marketing about lead quality
- Provide fully-qualified leads to Sales, including complete details in SFDC to shorten the transition and deal close cycle
- Stay current on all new product details and provide relevant customer feedback to the Product team
Sales – “One team, one dream”
Engineering – “Simply kickass”
- We deliver intuitive differentiating quality products on time
- We listen and we have your back
- We lead the change
Technical Support – “Got problems? We have answers!”
- Provide quality customer support
- Accurate information (internal/external)
- Act with deliberate haste, communicate with one voice, be dependable
Admin – “Invisible and proactive”
- Create and communicate non-burdensome, but necessary, processes in order to enable the company to effectively scale
- Simplify and enable employees’ ability to manage their personal plans and programs
- Hire (provide qualified candidates)/Onboard (see #2) and retain (competitive package and an awesome culture)
Don’t get me wrong, we are far from a perfect company. Sometimes we struggle with the rapid growth we’ve been experiencing. Occasionally, we also struggle with the interpretation of our own values. Yet, we still commit to extend patience and tolerance to one another, try to face any obstacles together, and we improve every day. The story of LiveAction is still being written, but I’m proud of who we’ve become and I look forward to overcoming the challenges of the future together.
July 5, 2016
Author: Darren Kimura