Leadership

How to Foster Positive Company Culture Amid Fast-Growth

We have three main principles that have become the backbone of our organization, helping us to grow while fostering a culture where everybody knows why we work so hard, everybody is rewarded for their effort, and everybody feels like a valued member of the team.

Having worked at multiple companies experiencing fast growth such as Google and VMware, as well as our own experiences growing Uprise Partners from a small consulting gig to what it is today, we are no strangers to fast growth. We’ve learned how to grow a company quickly, and most importantly, in a way that allows people to enjoy that growth and thrive.

Taking your company to the next level is exciting. It’s important in every phase of growth that the team feels good about their work and is excited to collaborate. What’s needed to achieve this will change over time. The great news is that maintaining positivity does not need to come at the expense of productivity – it actually enhances it. 

We recently hosted our annual team event called Level Up. It’s a multi-day offsite where we have sessions to hone our skills and update our practices, and we have plenty of time just to hang out, get to know each other more, and have fun. We always come out of this event energized with a renewed commitment to what we’re building together.  

Coming out of this session, we’re reminded of how far we’ve come as a team, and what makes Uprise so special. Overall, we have three main principles that have become the backbone of our organization, helping us to grow while fostering a culture where everybody knows why we work so hard, everybody is rewarded for their effort, and everybody feels like a valued member of the team.

1: Hiring Mentality

Hiring athletes is a major part of our hiring strategy. And by ‘athlete,’ I don’t mean someone who’s actually physically an athlete, but someone who will challenge themselves. We value people who are willing to run at a problem, and who are excited to get going every day. Especially as a fast-growing team, finding people who think for themselves and who are self-starters is crucial because often there is no guidebook or training manual.  

And for small businesses, even if you’re not looking to build a whole new company or whole new product, every organization deals with a new something: a new offering or service, new team members, new branding, new clients, new problems, new pandemics… the list just never ends. Having people on the team who embrace change and are energized by it is essential.

2: Team Mentality

Open and clear communication is important to us. A critical element of that is making the organization feel flat and developing a system of open communication to the point where even your most junior team members feel empowered to give feedback and talk with senior leaders on the team. 

Another thing to keep in mind is that in order to retain the ‘athletes’ and great talent you’ve hired and keep those people really engaged and excited, you’re going to need to offer them incentives to stay. A big part of that is being supported by great benefits. For us, healthcare is a big priority. In 2020, even as we entered the unknown of the pandemic, we made the choice to find the best healthcare plan available regardless of what it might mean for our revenue, and we pay 100% of our team members’ premiums.  

We also give all our employees equity in the company so if someday in the future we sell Uprise, everyone shares in that success. In the meantime, it allows our team to understand how their daily roles play into the bigger vision and how they’re able to benefit from that when the time comes.

3: Failure Mentality

We spend a lot of time talking about failing quickly and learning from failures in the tech industry. The way we’ve translated that into our company culture is by giving team members space to make mistakes and even to scare themselves a little. 

There’s one story our CTO, Brian Gagnon, likes to tell that I think really exemplifies this sort of mentality. While in Vegas for a trade show, Brian decided to try something new and take a helicopter flying lesson. Long story short, he flew a helicopter shockingly sooner than he had expected. The instructor sat in the passenger seat with his hands in his lap while Brian (panicking) rattled the helicopter through the whole session. After landing, he turned to the instructor and asked how he stayed so calm. The instructor told him that what was nerve wracking and scary to Brian was actually nowhere close to being an actual emergency. The lesson here is that to fly a helicopter, you need to first get through the panic and self-doubt of flying alone. 

I don’t mean to suggest that team members should be given zero training in order to “figure it out” themselves, but rather that they should have the space to learn and experiment. This is what drives creativity, collaboration, and confidence in themselves.

Summary

Brian and I are fortunate to build Uprise Partners with such a talented team. We’ve learned (and continue to learn!) how to grow a company in a way that makes the growth enjoyable and sustainable. And we’re eager to keep applying those lessons in the way we manage our team and if we can help other businesses do the same, that’s a big bonus for us.  

We don’t take our team for granted for a second and are always looking for ways to improve their experience. If you have any thoughts for us to consider, please drop me a note! I would love to hear from you.

Malinda Gagnon

Malinda is CEO at Uprise and has more than 20 years of experience in business strategy and technology at companies including Google and WPP, and has advised clients such as Procter & Gamble, General Electric, VW, BlackRock, and Walmart.

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