A company culture that wins
One of the biggest challenges in scaling a company fast is managing its dynamic, fun – and most importantly – winning culture. This culture enabled us to win MT/Sprout startup of the year 2023 in the Netherlands, despite being one of the youngest competing. Our culture set us up for success as we grew our team from 4 founders to 65+ legionnaires in just 18 months – and continue to accomplish our Bold Hairy Audacious Goal (BHAG) of securing 1 billion targets by 2028.
Company culture is incredibly difficult to define, as it is mostly defined by a set of unwritten rules on how everyone works and interacts with each other. As the company grows, we have seen an emergence of subcultures within our organization. This is not necessarily bad – sales teams might want to work differently than development teams. However, it is vital that, on an abstract level, the bigger picture remains the same. If subcultures start to diverge too much, there will be an increase in unnecessary friction and a decrease in overall productivity.
Last month, our leadership team spent a day working on writing down what we think encapsulates our winning company culture. What are the values that best represent our way of working? How can we implement those values into actual changes?
The five values we picked out are the pillars of our culture we want to promote in ourselves now and going forward, as we deliver complete and continuous coverage of the external exposure management lifecycle to our customers. This is what we need from our people – not from a technical or sales perspective – but more from a social and behavioral one, in pursuing our BHAG to secure 1 billion targets five years from now.
Hadrian’s five values
Values can and should clash with each other
Each value is related to a face of the company that requires different efforts from different people, and different ways of working together. For the five values to promote a winning culture, it’s essential to come up with a set of them that balance and complement each other. However, you’ll also notice some values and principles directly clash with each other. This is intentional, as their purpose is to drive everyone to consciously maintain that balancing act.
Hadrian’s principles guide the day-to-day implementation of values.
In order to translate those five values into actions, we applied a value and principle framework that allowed us to capture those (so far) unwritten ways of working. While values are the fundamental qualities we want to emulate, principles will enable us to guide teams into actually implementing those values on a day-to-day basis.
Values vs. Principles
Defined principles for each value
- Build solutions customers love: We help our customers in achieving their goals, while also exceeding their expectations.
- Delight the customer along the whole journey: We strive to delight our customers from the very first interaction and for many years to come.
- Learn from the customer every day: We continuously improve our understanding of the customers we work with.
- Be proactive: We take initiative, so that we have more control over what happens in the future.
- Seek solutions, not problems: We work together to figure out the solutions – ‘Their problem is also my problem.’
- Define milestones and commit to achieve them: We take responsibility and hold ourselves accountable for finishing what we set out to do.
- Appreciate efforts, celebrate results: We constantly show gratitude towards our colleagues. And when things go well, we make sure to celebrate.
- First understand, then be understood: We favour hearing what others have to say while letting go of our egos and assumptions.
- Be a mentor: We innovate and make better decisions as a team by being generous with our time and expertise.
- Eliminate in-progress: We have disciplined execution. We don’t let things get stuck in ‘In-progress’. We’re focused.
- Be comfortable with uncertainty: We constantly acknowledge uncertainty and act with the best information we have.
- Perfection is the enemy of good: We don’t overthink. We deliver the first version fast, so that we can get feedback and iterate on it.
- Build with scalability in mind: We are ready to adapt to any circumstances by building resiliency in everything we do.
- Never settle for good: We strive for excellence. Everyday we look for better, more effective, faster ways of doing things.
- Learn something every day: We stay ahead of the curve by keeping up to date with the latest trends, inventions and insights.
Walk the talk
In this manner, we use actionable principles to align daily behaviors with our values – weaving them into everything we do, from the hiring process, rapid onboarding, product management, development, and feedback.
For instance, under the value of 'Customer obsession,' one of our principles is 'Learn from the customer every day.' For sales teams, this means constantly extracting learnings from their conversations with potential customers. For product teams, this means leveraging user behavior to inform roadmap decisions.
Another example is how teams have applied the principles under the value of ‘Speed wins’ in their decision-making process. When the development team proposes a timeline for a new feature, some might suggest: “Speed wins. Let’s do it three times faster”. If it’s not realistic, they will likely settle for a compromise. When collaborative efforts are involved, agility is favored. This shortens and optimizes the feedback loop, preventing projects from being dragged out and losing momentum.
Teamwork makes the dream work
Cultural integration has to come from the top down – founders and leadership taking the most responsibility. However, it can also come from the champions in an organization that embody those values incredibly well. Having strong values leads to anecdotes, traditions, initiatives, and heroes that help to refine our culture and give it a unique feel. Every single hour of every day, ask yourself: “ Am I currently working on something that aligns with Hadrian’s winning culture?”.