Today, most startups are looking for opportunities to grow. However, when once success hits, how can you scale your company without giving up on the shared values and culture that had assisted in making you successful in the first place?
FreshBooks, an accounting company based in Toronto, was floated in 2003 by a handful of people in a tiny office. Today, there are more than 5 million people who have used FreshBooks in order to manage their books and we now have more than 90 employees.
As we have moved beyond our initial startup stages, here are the four ways in which we strive to retain our small business values as we continue to grow:
- Keep the perspective of a small-business owner.When we were not a really large business, it was pretty easy to empathize with the sorrows and pains felt by our small business customers — be it struggling to grow their own businesses, or the paperwork keeping them from the work they love. As we grow, it is important that we continue to see things from perspective of the small business owner.
Empathy is not only important in just customer support. From product design to marketers to quality assurance, we want all of our employees to all be able to step inside the shoes of the small business owner and then focus on how to make their lives better and easier.
- Build a foundation of core beliefs. Every business possesses its own culture, be it defined or undefined. It does not necessarily mean that all of your employees must think exactly the same way as the management does. But by creating a set of shared values and core beliefs, everyone has a framework for how to make decisions, set priorities and treat customers as well as each other.To keep your company’s core beliefs fresh in everybody’s mind, you should consider writing them down somewhere highly visible. For example, Zappos, an online retailer, has the ten core beliefs and values of the company written on the nametag of every staff member. Whether you do this or not, the actions of the leaders of your company will always speak louder than any words mentioned in the corporate manual.
- Create open channels of communication.When your company is not big enough everyone wears numerous hats and experiences the business from different and innumerable dimensions. As a company grows gradually, employees get pigeonholed into one or two roles and communication can become a labyrinth. At FreshBooks, we have taken a very unique approach to keep the small company dynamic, not static. Everyone (executive management included) rotates through customer support. A customer might get a developer one day or the CEO the next day. We take this approach which is unorthodox in nature because we want everybody at the company to stay close to the customers.
- Develop company culture outside business hours.If a company expects the employees to love its customers, the company must also love its employees. We include a lot of activities outside of the office — in fact, fun is one of our core values. For example, one weekend every year, the entire company and their families go out on a group vacation.