Young start-up founders are so ambitious, they often forget what it is that brings success. However good your product is, that means little in comparison to the quality of your team. I’ve seen many founders as their company grows, lose touch with their team as they chase the big deals.
A big mistake executives and entrepreneurs make is forgetting their unique path to success. This initial growing strategy that allowed you to grow to your first 5 employees and first million will allow you to reach your first 50 employees and your first 5 million. Many founders, after reaching some initial success, change their strategy to “scale” and lose what helped them grow in the first place. The issue here is the strategy that works for one company may not work for another. Adjusting short-term tactics is natural and necessary for growth but changing your strategy will cause confusion and frustration among your team.
When you have doubts if your new strategy fits your company culture try to sit down with your team. Simply by being around them during the workday, at lunch, and after work events will give you a better pulse on the strategies that fit.
Recently I had the opportunity to interview Amir Reiter from CloudTask for the ongoing series: CEOs Share Leadership Strategies To Improve Your Company’s Culture!
Amir Reiter is the CEO of CloudTask, a managed workforce provider for growing companies looking for B2B Sales, Sales Chat and Customer Support solutions. His mission is to find prospects, nurture leads and satisfy customers, to enable businesses to focus on what they do best.
Recently, they were chosen to become one of Drift’s first partners, a sales chat platform. Furthermore, they’ve launched a new customer support service and have already secured two large-scale accounts.
Krish Chopra: What are the 3 most important values that your company’s culture is based on?
- Trust — I spent much of my early career in large bureaucratic organizations and only felt this put people in boxes, limited their creativity and reduced job satisfaction. At CloudTask we give people the trust and freedom to go out and take their ideas forward without multilevel sign-off. Alon, our COO and I, sit among the CloudTask staff, so that they can approach us at any point of the day, whether they want to run an idea past us or are simply looking for some advice.
- Personal and Professional Development — We’re always encouraging personal growth. There’s the old phrase ‘what if you train your staff and they leave. Well, what if you don’t and they stay.’ People stay because they are valued and we have a culture of internal promotions. We have trainers on site to equip our sales and support staff with everything they need to succeed, Quality Assurance Analysts to keep their eye on the pulse for any areas of improvement and Account Managers to execute plans.
- Flexibility — People live busy lives, they have hobbies, families and more. We cater for everyone’s needs and encourage results, not just time sat at a desk. Again, the more freedom you give to people when managed effectively, the more they produce for you. We allow our teams to work remotely when possible and have teams in the USA, Colombia, Nicaragua, Brazil, the UK and the Philippines, all connected in one seamless unit. The experience we gain from the variety of cultures is invaluable to our success.
By giving millennials the space to fulfil their dreams, again they give you support in return.
Krish: Managing millennials can often be a polarizing topic. Can you elaborate on your advice for managing the “millennial mindset?”
Amir: Millenials want space and time to pursue their own goals. They are always looking to grow and take on new challenges. Through the values above, we enable people to excel in the office, but we also acknowledge that outside the office, people want to start their own businesses, generate passive income and practice their hobbies. We encourage and support all this, and allow people the time and opportunity to pursue their dreams.
- Our VP of Marketing is starting his own renewable energy business
- One of our Account Executives is a long distance road cyclist
- Our Solutions Experts runs her own soap business
- One of our Content Writers is a stand-up comedian
By giving millennials the space to fulfil their dreams, again they give you support in return.
Krish: What are your “5 Ways to Improve Your Company’s Culture” and why?
- Reward innovation: We have awards every month for the most innovative new idea, and the idea most successfully implemented. Our last reward: a bungee jump for the Account Manager who introduced a new outreach strategy that dramatically increased the ROI on one of our largest accounts.
- Encourage diversity: We have a truly multinational team. We celebrate our diversity, run language exchange programs and have bi-weekly events to exchange cultures. Our last was a Venezuelan theme where we sampled stuffed arepas, their most popular cuisine.
- Remove barriers to success: In a multicultural team, setting up can be hard. We have a three bedroom apartment open to new employees to ensure we attract the best talent and have no barriers to entry.
- The little extras: The little things add up to a lot. From Friday happy hour, to an occasional barista in the office, or Wednesday night football, to the CloudTask anniversary dinner; any little extra thing you can bring to your office, will increase happiness.
- Put our staff first: We treat our employees as equals, look to promote internally, use hot-desks for collaboration, have flexible remote working policies, and much more.
Krish: Strong company culture is something that everyone likes to think they have but very few have it. Why do so many organizations struggle with creating strong, healthy work environments?
Amir: Bureaucracy hampers innovation, positive culture and healthy environments. Everyone knows this, but what always amazes me is how little has changed over the last 10 or 20 years. Yes, maybe you don’t have to wear a tie to work now, but to even put out a Tweet at one organization I worked for, I needed the media team to sign it off. Unless organizations give people the freedom to excel, they will always struggle.
Of course freedom does come with its share of risks and mistakes are occasionally made, but we never employ a culture of blame. We look at what happened and how we can improve it the next time round.
Young start-up founders are so ambitious, they often forget what it is that brings success.
Krish: What is one mistake you see a young start-up founders make in their culture or leadership practices?
Amir: Young start-up founders are so ambitious, they often forget what it is that brings success. However good your product is, that means little in comparison to the quality of your team. I’ve seen many founders as their company grows, lose touch with their team as they chase the big deals.
My COO and I always make ourselves available and even have a dedicated ask us email to be used for questions, queries and support that aren’t standard day to day work.
Krish: To add to the previous question, young CEOs often have a lot of pressure to perform and often wear many hats. What’s a simple time efficient strategy they can start doing today to improve their company’s culture?
Amir: Use the best technology to track projects and tasks but don’t forget the human touch. Have regular check-ins to review performance. If you don’t have time to meet in person, a great tip is to always use a video meeting link instead of just a call. This not only makes it more personal, but on video people are less likely to multitask.
Krish: Success leaves clues. What has been your biggest influence in your leadership strategy and company culture?
Amir: The biggest influence has been from negative experiences. I saw in past work how leaders shut their doors on junior staff, policy became more important than spirit and flexibility was crushed. I decided that the day I set up my company, it would be in contrary to all these values and I believe this shows through this interview.
As well as being the CEO, one of my main roles at CloudTask is Head of Sales. As many of our junior staff work in sales, in addition to the support they receive from Account Managers and Corporate Trainers, I always sit down with them for an hour during their first 2 weeks, and give them some of the tips that I have learnt over the years. This has also acted as a great opportunity for me to get to know our team.
Krish: What advice do you have for employees that have bad bosses? How can they take control and improve a bad situation?
Amir: Don’t be scared to speak up. I know it can be difficult at the times, but it’s much better to address the situation at the earliest opportunity and resolve it, than to suffer in silence. Have the courage to stand up and professionally resolve the situation.
Krish: Okay, we made it! Last question — what’s one unique hack you or your company does that has enhanced your work culture?
Amir: Have regular activities outside the office. Our Medellin HQ is surrounded by mountains so we organize hikes once a month. We have a rule that you’re not allowed to talk about work on these hikes. The idea is that the team can clear their heads and escape the hustle of the city. The difference this has made to the camaraderie back in the office has been immeasurable.
A note to the readers: Improving company culture happens at any level in an organization. If you learned one thing in this interview, please share this with someone close to you.
A special thanks to Amir Reiter again!
Stay in the loop — Follow me and get updates when I post new leadership articles and interviews — check me out here:
Originally published at medium.com