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Popular Pays’ secret to a company culture worth sharing

by Aana Leech | 4 years ago

When we set out to define our company culture, we started by listening to our team.

A still from our 2017 Team Retreat video

The Popular Pays team has enjoyed an organic growth of a welcoming company culture that encourages personal growth while we’ve grown as a business. After closing a series A funding round in early 2017, we realized that our team was poised for a growth spurt. That kind of growth required that we turn our organic vibe into concrete values — a culture with values that could be easily communicated and replicated. We started drafting a document with a team of two, Director of Marketing Communications Aana Wherry and myself, but involved the whole team in our workflow.

Your culture starts with your mission

Before we wrote a single word of our culture statement, we knew we had to clarify our origin story and how that informed our mission as a company. We needed a clear origin story to easily onboard new team members and have them understand who we are, beyond the business we do. No matter if you’re a tech company or you’re running a tea atelier, the process starts with dialing back to the big questions, “Who are we? Where have we come from? What are we making? Why are we making it?” Thinking back to the earliest days of Pop Pays we remembered a question written on a napkin at a meeting: “Is it worth sharing?”

That’s always been the question we ask ourselves when it comes to who we hire, how we run the business, or how we communicate. Even though our business has evolved, one thing hasn’t changed — everything we do has to be worth sharing, or we don’t do it at all.

Your team informs your culture

With our mission solid in our minds, we turned to the people who know our culture best: our team. We didn’t want our culture and values to feel dictated from the top down, but born out of the whole team. Consulting across the team meant everyone felt a sense of buy-in before we had a first draft.

The first iteration of our culture document was a collection of statements from team members across every part of our company. They shared both the values they saw currently lived out at Popular Pays, as well as values to work towards going forward. While we loved having input from the whole team, fitting everyone’s thoughts in one document lead to something that was unwieldy, and too long to be digestible let alone applied. We weren’t done yet.

Your culture has to be digestible

We knew that a culture and values document meant nothing if it was too long for anyone to read, so Aana and I looked for ways to consolidate the contributions of the larger team into something more digestible.

Writing each statement from a teammate on an index card, we looked for patterns across those values that coalesced into identifiable groupings. At the end of our workshopping, we had five groups that the value statements fell into. To make each group memorable and actionable, we developed value statements that tied back to our larger mission, to “Create something worth sharing.”

We wanted statements that would clearly express the beliefs shared by our team members with just a sentence or two, but were flexible enough to allow personalization within departments in our company. Each of these values was worth something to us because they helped us achieve our mission as a team.

The landing for the culture page on our website

Your culture needs to be shareable

A statement of culture and values means nothing if your team can’t easily understand it, put it into action, and share it out. We had created a more concise version of our culture, but needed a version that would live permanently digitally and physically.

The culture page on our website

Our design team considered readability, visual interest, and clarity when working through where our culture and values would live. We tossed around ideas like a hardcover booklet or a video.

What the design team produced was a dynamic culture page on our website and print versions that have been well-received across our team. We’ve had positive responses from outside our team too, which lead to a Forbes.com interview with CEO Corbett Drummey about it.

Defining and sharing your company culture is an important step in preparing yourself for growth and helping you achieve your larger goals. When people ask what it’s like working at Popular Pays, I’m glad to have a shareable page that can show them exactly that. If you want to know more about our culture, check out the page on our website. If you want to see our culture and team in action, check out the video from our 2017 Team Retreat at Camp Wandawega. If this guide helped you solidify your own team’s culture, let us know!

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