Company Culture Doesn’t Have to Be a Casualty of Rapid Growth

It can be easy for culture to fall by the wayside during periods of rapid growth. Here is how to stop that from happening.

Written by Michael Hines
Published on Jan. 27, 2022
Company Culture Doesn’t Have to Be a Casualty of Rapid Growth
Brand Studio Logo

Since a company’s culture is often developed organically, it can be easy for leadership to think that culture will scale right alongside the business. The thing is, though, that scaling company culture isn’t something that just “happens.” Culture isn’t a living thing that evolves and grows naturally. It’s a reflection of how a company’s mission shapes the way its teams work together and with customers, and as everyone knows — aside from vampires — reflections change over time.

For companies, it’s less about seeing gray hairs in the mirror and more about the fact that, as they grow, they broaden their business goals and add more employees. These shifts naturally change the reflection of a company and require it to ensure that the tenets of its culture are effectively communicated to all new joiners. At Aura, Chief People Officer Sofia Kaufman said communication has been key to strengthening the company’s culture during its recent period of rapid growth.

In addition to communication, the hiring sprees that come with scaling can also be an occasion for companies to pause and consider their potential impact on the world. Klaviyo doubled its headcount in 2021 and, in assessing its newfound stature, decided to add a new corporate value centered around equity.

Both Aura and Klaviyo are experiencing periods of rapid growth, and we reached out to them and two other Boston tech companies to get an idea of how companies keep their cultures strong while scaling.

 

Natalie Higgins
Employee Engagement Program Manager • Klaviyo

Klaviyo is an email and SMS marketing platform designed to enable businesses to both reach consumers with more relevant messaging and to provide deeper insights into how said messaging drives revenue. The company closed a $320 million Series D in May of 2021, which pushed its valuation to $9.5 billion.

 

First, tell us about the growth Klaviyo has been experiencing recently. How many people have you hired? And which teams are growing the fastest?

Higgins: Klaviyo began 2020 with about 350 Klaviyos and we ended 2020 with just over 550. We thought that was incredible growth and couldn’t have imagined what 2021 had in store. Here we are, kicking off 2022 with over 1,100 employees across the globe and expecting to grow at a similar pace over the coming year, particularly on our R&D, support and success teams. In the midst of this, our culture remains our number one priority and the greatest product we will ever create. We know that we have to work well internally to come up with the best solutions for our customers.
 

In reassessing our identity as a larger — and still growing — company, we’re directing particular attention to our social impact.
 

How would you describe Klaviyo’s culture? What’s changed since the early days and what’s stayed the same?

Higgins: In reassessing our identity as a larger — and still growing — company, we’re directing particular attention to our social impact. In June 2021, we refreshed our corporate values and added that we “strive to make the world more equitable.” We are holding ourselves accountable to this goal both within Klaviyo and through our product by making sure equitable practices are embedded into our internal operating infrastructure to ensure success for all of our customers and employees.
 

Vivian Asonye
Learning and Development Specialist • Klaviyo

What are you doing to keep company culture strong through this period of rapid growth?

Asonye: Klaviyo has always had a people-centered culture, and no matter how much we grow we continue to put our employees first. I had the pleasure of joining the team during this period and have been impressed by Klaviyo’s wellness-based perks and employee benefits. Work-life balance has always been a component of company culture, but they raised the bar this year by offering a $200 annual wellness stipend, unlimited paid-time off, expanded parental leave and complimentary Headspace and Bravely coaching subscriptions.

In addition to these offerings, Klaviyo has continued to honor its culture of curiosity and learning by giving employees the opportunity to level up their skills through a $3,000 learning stipend and book reimbursement policy. These benefits allow employees to personalize their learning experience and take ownership of their development.

 

 

Lucinda Bowen
Sr. HR Manager - Employee Experience • Perch

Perch acquires, operates and optimizes high-performing Amazon “microbrands” and direct-to-consumer companies. To date, Perch has acquired over 70 companies. Perch pulled in $775 million in funding — yes, $775 million — in 2021.

 

Tell us about the growth Perch has been experiencing recently. 

Perch experienced significant growth in 2021, exploding from 20 to over 200 team members in just one year. Our focus for 2022 is continuing to support and develop our onboarded team members so they can help shepherd our business growth, both organically as well as through additional product acquisitions. We will continue to hire to support our business needs, with a particular focus on technology and the operational aspects of our brands, including our growth, brand management and supply chain and operations functions.
 

Perch’s culture of continuous learning, data-driven action and fanatical customer obsession reverberates across every team.
 

How would you describe Perch’s company culture? What’s changed since the early days and what’s stayed the same?

We are still in our early days, but Perch’s culture of continuous learning, data-driven action and fanatical customer obsession reverberates across every team. We are driven to delight our customers, which means we are always their biggest fans. We root for, listen to and learn from customers every day and build Perch with their needs in mind. From our pricing to our in-stock rate and product quality, we are constantly using data to identify opportunities to improve and to test solutions to make sure we’re solving problems, not just for now but for good. 

Embracing challenges is one of our core principles, and being driven to pursue mastery with tenacity and urgency is one of the characteristics our diverse team members all share. But our culture goes beyond how we do our work; it’s also about how we treat each other. We collaborate with positivity, accountability and camaraderie. We ask for and eagerly offer help, seek and share feedback, and keep our eyes focused not on perfection but growth. We act daily to extend trust, respect, empathy and care to each other so every team member feels like a valued part of the flock.

 

What are you doing to keep company culture strong through this period of rapid growth?

Throughout the last year, one constant has been Perch’s commitment to meeting every two weeks in an entire group gathering we affectionately call “the EGG.” Our EGG meetings are a chance to align on priorities and goals, hear about company performance from leadership, learn more about how our teams are growing and celebrate wins and each other! Our team members work in a flexible, hybrid style, so transparent communication is vitally important to helping us achieve our goals. 

We send regular engagement surveys and listen closely to employees when they call for change and schedule wellness days to help prioritize balance. Our employee resource groups, DEI connection conversations and robust menu of Slack channels help us virtually connect on everything from identifying new product leads to our favorite recipes and photos of our pets and kids. Part of keeping company culture strong is making sure our teams are equipped to perform with cohesive strength. We nurture this through training and norm-setting conversations and by making time each quarter to connect live and virtually to build relationships.

 

 

Holly Kennedy
SVP, People and Culture • Linus Health

Linus Health has developed a platform for brain health screening and monitoring that uses machine learning to analyze data from digital cognitive tests. The insights gleaned are designed to give doctors an early warning sign that a patient may be in the earliest stages of diseases like Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’s. Linus Health raised $55 million in funding in 2021.

 

Talk about the growth Linus Health has been experiencing. 

Over the past year we have increased our employee base by almost 500 percent! At the moment, we are heavily focused on ramping up our engineering and analytics teams to expand our capability to deliver quality products to our customer base. On top of our current hiring plans, we expect to see continued expansion across product, growth, operations, marketing, medical and other departments throughout the year.
 

We use our values as a baseline for cultural conversations and look for candidates who exhibit the inherent behaviors that represent our culture.
 

How would you describe Linus Health’s company culture? 

Our mission drives our culture, and every employee has stated that what drew them to Linus Health was our mission. Our employees are caring, empathetic and driven to make a difference for those who suffer from brain health-related issues and to transform how we detect and treat brain health issues in the future. Characteristics that describe our culture are as follows:

We are transparent, use our resources wisely and believe in integrity and doing what is right. We foster a team culture and aspire to exceed customer expectations by delivering high-quality, detailed and well-thought-out solutions. We think big and act bold by valuing limitless ideas and moving forward fearlessly and by doing challenging things that advance our vision and the associated greater good for the entire world.

 

What are you doing to keep company culture strong through this period of rapid growth?

In July of 2021 we introduced the “Linus Health Values,” the compass for our culture that all employees are accountable to and which guides their decision-making. There are many ways in which we have integrated our values into our way of life so that they live and breathe within the company, thus reinforcing our culture. Here are a few examples.

During recruiting, we use our values as a baseline for cultural conversations and look for candidates who exhibit the inherent behaviors that represent our culture. At our monthly employee standups, we talk about one or two of our values and what they look like within the company. We do this by providing examples from the month prior or through aspirational examples of what a value looks like when exhibited. We have also implemented a peer-to-peer recognition program, called Charlie’s, that allows employees to reward each other for demonstrating specific values. Our talent review process hinges on our values, too: Each value is defined in terms of baseline behaviors and employees receive feedback from that perspective. 

 

 

Sofia Kaufman
Chief People Officer • Aura

Aura is a cybersecurity company focused on keeping ordinary people safe online. It provides protection against identity theft, fraudulent purchases, malware, and more. Aura’s recent growth has been fueled by a $200 million Series F raised last October.

 

Tell us about the growth at Aura.

We are growing at a rapid pace. We hired over 350 people in 2021 across all teams and expect to add over 100 more “Aura All-Stars” in 2022. We are always looking to add innovative talent to our rocket ship. In 2022 we are specifically focusing on engineering, product and data science roles.
 

What has changed is how we make decisions, like making them with imperfect information rather than waiting for the perfect answer.


How would you describe Aura’s company culture? 

We are a fast-moving rocket ship. At the core of our culture is our focus on our employees, our customers and continuous learning. Those tenets will never change. What has changed is the speed with which we work and how we make decisions, like making them with imperfect information rather than waiting for the perfect answer.

 

What are you doing to keep company culture strong through this period of rapid growth?

The most impactful step we’ve taken to strengthen our culture is to focus on communication at all levels in the organization. At least once a week we have a formal or informal all-company event that lets people know what we are up to, both on a macro and individual level. We have company “ask anything meetings,” informal coffee and chat Zooms, weekly employee resource group meetings, and more.

Rapidly scaling in a remote world requires us to be laser focused on how we bring people together and make sure we also create opportunities for people to come together in the real world when it is safe to do so. We are building some awesome collaboration centers across the United States — in Boston, Austin, Silicon Valley and NYC — which will allow our employees to get together for formal team meetings and also just spend time together.

 

Hiring Now
Klaviyo
eCommerce • Marketing Tech • Software