While of course we’re incredibly grateful for our dizzying growth here at dapulse, the truth is, it’s pretty uncomfortable a lot of the time.
Doubling in size every six months—how many customers we have, how much we make, and how many people work here—means nothing can ever stay the same. Not only do we have to change the way we work; we have to improve and find new ways to do everything even better than we did before.
It’s especially difficult to define a cohesive and meaningful company culture while you’re moving forward at breakneck speed. As a company with now over 60 people—and 25 open positions that we’re actively recruiting for—we no longer really qualify as a “small and scrappy” startup. Things are getting bigger and more complex and we have to adapt accordingly.
At first glance, it seemed like two roads diverged in a wood, and they were equally horrible options:
Option 1: Continue hiring at an insanely rapid pace and descend into chaos. Resist imposing strict hierarchy and guidelines, so no one knows what’s what, who’s in charge, and what anyone else is working on. Only the strong survive.
Option 2: Create rules and structure and bureaucracy. Kill innovation and creativity. Squash people’s spirits. Start losing the bright and imaginative people you hired. Descend into mediocrity.
That’s why we, like many others, connected with the now legendary “Netflix Culture Deck.” It’s been viewed over 16 million times and has been called “one of the most important documents to come out of Silicon valley” by Sheryl Sandberg. It confirmed that fortunately, there’s a third option, and in accordance with the Goldilocks principle, it feels just right.
Create a culture that’s loosely coupled and highly aligned.
Loosely coupled = Trust employees and empower them to move forward with what they think is best without being shackled by bureaucracy, approvals, or fear of failure.
Highly aligned = Communicate the overall goals and bigger picture, so without having to micromanage everyone, you can be confident that they’re working towards the same bigger picture
That allows you to be big, fast, and flexible.
So all of this may sound well and good, but the real question is… how? For us, it boils down to the main tools we use:
1. dapulse, obviously 🙂
We don’t really use email here at dapulse. We keep meetings to a minimum. There isn’t a lot of hierarchy, and there are very few “processes” you have to follow. That’s because we use dapulse, and our product reflects our philosophy.
We unknowingly built our whole product on the “loosely coupled, highly aligned” philosophy—for us, that’s what transparency is. We’re all clear on what the bigger goals are, and dapulse shows everyone how individual tasks and projects fit into the big picture. Because it’s totally visual, you see where things stand in a single glance. This keeps everyone “highly aligned.”
In addition, because everything we’re working on is in dapulse, it allows us to stay “loosely coupled.” We’ve never been into micromanagement or bureaucracy, and it’s all because dapulse allows us to avoid it. We don’t just list work in dapulse; our actual work is done inside of it, and it’s visible and there for everyone to see. This transparency eliminates the need to ask, “Where do things stand?” or “Have you completed this task?” You look in dapulse and just know.
2. BigBrain, the “responsible adult”
The only reason we’re able to work in such a creative, unhindered environment is that we do have one thing holding us accountable: the numbers. We’re obsessed with trying new things and improving our performance, but only if we can measure our attempts with precision and accuracy.
Enter: BigBrain. We’ve put a lot of time, energy, and resources into building a custom business intelligence (BI) tool that tracks every single cent that goes in and out of our company, as well as every single event: if someone clicked on a button on our website, created a new column in our system, replied to an email, went to a webinar… it’s all hosted in BigBrain. That allows us to A/B test pretty much everything and constantly improve.
BigBrain is the “responsible adult” who holds us accountable as we aim to grow and improve. At the end of the day, the numbers speak for themselves.
We don’t expect it to be an easy ride as we continue to scale, but it feels good to have found a creed of sorts that will help us stay true to ourselves.