Episode 06 : Retaining company culture in a hyper growth phase

Hyper growth phase and retain culture

On today’s episode of Nurture.Team, the exploration we are going to have is:

How to retain the company culture in a hyper growth mode?

How to retain the culture of the company during Hyper growth phase. When a company goes through high growth spurts, we hear this a lot – “When we were small, we had a great culture. But it’s all lost now. Our culture has changed. It doesn’t feel like the way it use to”. Right?

I bet some of us have been part of this journey and have felt the same – or perhaps you could have heard this from the early employees.

I wanted to learn “What can an individual and the management teams of the fast growing startup do to retain the culture during its growth phase.”

About the guest speaker

Our guest today is Jim Miller. Jim needs no introduction. But still let me name few accomplishment he has achieved so far.  

    • He is a member of Board of directors at Wayfair
    • He is a non-executive board member and director at Brambles
    • He is part of technical advisory network at Boston Consulting Group
    • He was CEO and now a strategic advisor at Arevo
    • He is on various advisory board for Santa Clara University, Purdue University and visiting committee for IDSS @ MIT.
    • In the past he has worked at VP of WW Operations at Google (for ~8 years), was VP of Supply Chain and Operations at Cisco, and at Amazon.

I wanted to know about the following: 

    1. How do you define a company in hyper growth mode?
    2. What is Culture?
    3. How do you measure Culture?
    4. Immense hiring is bound to occur in a fast growing company – Are there any common hiring mistakes a hyper growth company does?
    5. Politics.
      • Good/ bad
      • Small company/ Large company
    6. What are Top 3 action items to ensure the original flavor which made such a great founding team survives and how to pass it on to the new folks joining?

Key takeaways

1/ Hyper Growth Mode

    • Quantitatively: Companies are growing 20-30+ CAGR
    • Qualitatively: It really is a greenfield. Feels like Day 1. Competition is discussed but you know you are defining whole new category or business model. Your company is defining a whole new area. Your focus is scale, growth and not so much of competition.
    • Hyper growth could take place in slow-growth mature companies too.

2/ What is Culture?

    • Culture is about shared values of the company. It is the defining characteristics which guides the company to build it’s product, scale, react to competition and it’s customers.
    • Culture is the series of behavior and reactions that transcends through day to day work operations.
    • You could call it the North Star of the company
      • It is the set of guiding principles
      • It tends to be indelible – so can’t it be easily created or destroyed

3/ How to measure Culture?

    • It’s not easy to measure is quantitatively.
    • (As a working example), Google’s annual employee satisfaction is a big deal for the company. A lot of money, time and resources are poured into this process.
      • They channel a lot of questions to understand what’s going on through employee minds.
      • Employees and all levels of management give their unvarnished feedback
    • Now what comes out of this survey – “the action items” – are followed through.
      • This is very crucial and important.
    • So, companies who do annual survey should make sure that they are very timely with the feedback they get and a survey shouldn’t just be a lip service.
      • So, responding to feedback, a situation is very important.

4/ Hiring in Hyper growth company

    • Hiring is the most important thing to focus on.
      • You can track culture getting deluded to bad hiring
    • There has to be emphasis on “Culture Fit”. Don’t hire bodies or be in a rush to check the box in the org chart.
      • Even if there is pressure!
    • Focus on versatility
      • During hyper growth jobs are going to change, work is going to change and you need people who are willing to adapt!
    • Look at the danger signs
      • Attrition: Asking people why are they leaving and use that as a refection if change is required.
      • Hire and forget: This is a very common pattern. They are brining all good and bad attributes from where they are coming. If you don’t spend time to onboard them, it can be really bad for your company. Onboarding is very important.
      • Middle management: These are arms and legs in high growth on companies. Focus is needed in this hiring.
      • Managing not a good fit: Take timely and immediate action to move them people on. It could be different group or some other place and do it very very professionally.

5/ Politics

    • Politics is an aberrant behavior where a person is doing something for personal gain over someone.
    • Politics is sometimes confused with Chaos.
    • Politics is always a bad thing.
      • Politics in big company or small company is all the same. It’s bad.
    • In a smaller company (say 20 people), every individual can have a profound impact VS a big company (say 1000 people) where any individual’s impact is very localized.
    • So, cultural attributes are definitely set by the founder, markets and the early leaders.

6/ Top 3 action items in growth phase

    • Focus on hiring. Never compromise on talent. Everyone on hiring team must have a say. Don’t hire like yourself.
    • Focus on the onboarding process.
    • Keep your pulse on the culture, values, what you stand for, stay transparent in communications, stay sincere.

Rapid fire with Jim

    • What is your Spirit animal?


    • What according to you is your Super Power?

X-Ray vision

    • Name a book that changed your life?