Tips for maintaining workplace culture during expansive growth
In the days of office foosball, snacks in the kitchen, employer-supplied beer, and a lax dress code, Tagboard fits right in. The company has skateboards for employees to take to lunch, and easy access to the Burke-Gilman Trail for active afternoon brainstorming sessions. But it’s one thing to tout a vibrant workplace culture; maintaining that culture is a challenge in itself.
The Redmond-based social-media company has experienced some growing pains since it was founded by CEO Josh Decker in 2011. Hiring has been a particular challenge. For example, the individual hired to lead Tagboard’s new United Kingdom office didn’t work out.
CFO Larry Buycks, who’s also in charge of operations, says “hire slow, fire fast” is Tagboard’s mantra, and that the company has learned its lesson when it comes to hiring the right person for the job.
“We haven’t been perfect at it, but we’ve certainly had enough (hires) where we moved a little bit too fast, and, true to form, it didn’t work,” Buycks said. “So we’re OK toughing it out and having people wear multiple hats for longer than normal. That’s served us well.”
Workplace atmosphere and style is important at Tagboard, so the company prioritizes cultural fit when evaluating applicants. Buycks said the company is overt about what it’s like to work there, so when a person is brought in for an interview, she already has a good idea of what the culture is like.
“At the end of the day, (tech companies are) all doing the same thing,” said Buycks. “But how you go about doing it, which is a big part of our culture, is what makes a difference. It comes out in everything, from recruiting and marketing to product development. … People see not only is it a fun place and a fun environment and they really put people first, but that we work really hard.”
Buycks said Tagboard has invested very little in outbound marketing. Now the company is gearing up to “strategically pour gas” on its marketing engine in hopes of generating more growth, both in people and revenue. He said the company expects to grow 150 percent in the next 18 months.
So how will the company go about maintaining its chill environment? Through careful placement of company-culture torch bearers. To ensure it opens its aforementioned U.K. office properly, the company sent over one of its junior team members to make sure the company culture is translated properly.
Another strong element of Tagboard’s culture is workplace traditions such as wearing Wu-Tang Clan shirts on Wednesdays and Star Wars shirts on Thursdays, foosball tournaments, in-office arcade and Xbox games, beer taps in the kitchen, and “Every Freakin’ Friday” meetings at 10 a.m. Each tradition was instituted organically, and was not implemented from the top down.
“We’ve made some decisions in terms of generosity and how we do things that people would say are counter to sound business decisions, but it’s because of the way we’ve chosen to prioritize,” Buycks said. “We’ve made sure people know … that we believe that if people are whole and their families are whole, and things are well at home, that that’s more important. We care more about our people than what they do.”
Celebrate the wins
“Every Monday we talk about a core value and about how the value ties to business objectives. We’re over-communicating about our values and how that drives business.
“On Fridays, we have parties in the afternoon, and we celebrate the ways people were adding to the value system and what they accomplished through the week.
“We also get feedback from employees on things they’d like to see improved, what’s working, and what’s not working, and there’s a dedicated person to make sure people are happy and that they’re getting what they need to succeed.”
Foster friendly competition
“It starts with setting clear expectations around the rules of engagement for the organization. So whether that’s a sales team, or whether that’s an operations team, it’s about setting clear expectations in writing and making sure everybody understands them. That’s really where you create the baseline and foundation that you build on for a healthy organization.
“Even if it’s not a sales culture, it’s really about getting everyone collectively agreeing to the mission, and the vision is something that’s worthy of contributing to a healthy competitive environment.”