Keeping a Startup Culture as You're Growing

Posted by Samantha Koury on Feb 21, 2018 3:29:24 PM

On President’s day, I sat down with Porter Leslie, President of Ametros, to learn how in just two short years, Ametros managed to triple their team to nearly 70 employees while still maintaining an open and welcoming environment for everyone. After a couple months on the job as a Digital Marketing Associate, I’ve enjoyed our collegial culture and have been impressed with how our “play hard, work harder” mentality is consistent throughout the company. It’s one of the main factors that I believe fuels Ametros’ success, so I wanted to get Porter’s thoughts about what he thinks helps us stay true to that culture through our growth stage.

Keeping a dynamic culture

SamanthaWe are living in a period where startups are emerging in most city hubs, and it’s common for these companies to care about their cultures. While it seems almost effortless for startups to have the “startup culture,” doesn’t the real test begin when that company begins the process of expanding their roots by bringing on more employees and more business? Wouldn’t you want to be amongst the few companies who were able to stick to their culture throughout years of growth and changing environments?

PorterAbsolutely. Perpetuating a culture that believes in our mission and our success is where it all begins. As we grow, the flow of communication and the sharing of knowledge amongst our team has to be strong. I think that’s the most important thing we can focus on. We need to believe in our ideas and in each other. That belief. That’s contagious. That makes clients believe in us and that helps us do amazing things.

 

Investing in Your Team Properly

SamanthaHow do you bottle that up and replicate it? Paid lunches, team outings, and expensive conferences all sound like what your employees want, right? That’s what a lot of management seminars recommend.

 PorterThese examples are just a few generic notions around what management sometimes think their employees are interested in. And as enticing as these can be, not everyone fits into just one box that can be checked off. What companies should focus on are finding individual interests of employees, and encouraging their personal growth. Take someone in your sales department who is a hard thinker and enjoys to read, don’t assume they want to attend a huge conference about digital strategy when a couple of books they have been checking out on Amazon could hit the same point home. Doing this shows you have taken the time to understand them and learn about their enthusiasm towards reading.

People instinctively want to work hard for those who care about them. Other companies can go wrong when the corporate structure stifles the personality and humanity of the organization, believing everyone wants just one thing to compensate their time and effort in the job. One way around this mistake is to establish individual objectives and find out how the individual wants to achieve their goal (like by reading, or taking an online course, etc.)

An intangible part of investing in your employees is to simply give them the power to say what they want. Allow employees to lead events and encourage them to participate in HR-run activities as well, making sure there is a solid balance between the two. Nobody wants to feel like an obligation to their company, and employees would probably enjoy being included in polls to find out what sort of activities they want to see next. How can this be completed successfully? Be responsive and interested in what is noted.

Finally, the golden rule: (no, not treat others the way you want to be treated- but close!) treat employees the way you treat your customers or clients. This doesn’t mean wine and dine all day long, but prove to them you respect their time just as much someone who purchases your product or service.

 
Never Lose Sight of Your Team- Literally

Samantha: We consistently see you sitting in the pods with everyone in the office. Is this your secret way of spying on us to make sure we’re getting our work done?

Porter: That’s what security cameras are for! Joking aside, in my previous job, I loved watching the door to see if we’d have anyone stop by, so I’d always sit out in the open. I frequently travel and have a good amount of personal thinking time. That’s why when I’m in the office, it’s important to be accessible to those who need me.

 

SamanthaHow do you go about hiring strategically and manage to balance hiring based on a candidate’s personality and skill set to complement our current team members?

Porter: You must have the confidence to hire someone who can do your job. If you ever left your current job, you’d want someone just as incredible, if not better, to take over for you, right? Hire with a “he/she can take my job” mindset, and you’ll ensure your team is equipped with like-minded individuals leading to success. Hire people that are good at things that honestly, you suck at, but also passionate about the company values and are capable of working hard.

 

SamanthaWhen departments are growing and adding team members, it seems like they could lose touch easily, and communication levels would decline. Where do you find departments can lessen the room for error here?

Porter: That word, “department” is foolish. I think when you put a group of skilled people together, you create a team, not a cog-functioning department. For example, it’s much lighter to say, “How do we get Brian and Mary from Marketing to work closer with James and Susan from sales,” rather than, “How do we get marketing to work closer with sales?” The first suggests a quantifiable and specific amount of people to work with each other, while the latter harshly states the entirety of marketing and sales must work closer together, creating more work to be done to complete goals.

To communicate effectively, teams should be actively thinking, “why are we having this meeting, what is it we want to accomplish, is this necessary?” When teams can put commonalities into place with some sort of structure, objectives can be easily mapped out and met.

Design a Comfortable Office Space

Samantha: Our team will probably outgrow this office pretty soon, and I know everyone loves our vibrant color scheme and fun furniture, so do you plan on duplicating the office atmosphere and decoration there? Or do you want to reinvent our office space and go big like Google? Also, I just donated $1,000 to our office-design-charity. What do you do with it?

Porter: Just because Google has the latest and greatest like a massive tree house in the middle of the office doesn’t mean it fits our work space vibe. Your office portrays the physical representation your company mission, and you should coordinate similar colors, art, games, and offices accordingly. I know of a healthcare startup designed to help mothers-to-be throughout their pregnancy and obviously they wanted to incorporate pastel colors with soft features and an area designed for at-work child care. That works.

What would I do with $1,000? I’m game for a basketball hoop in the parking lot for lunch-break games and a ping pong table inside. 

Topics: About Ametros