When we set out to define our company culture, we started by listening to our team.
- Write your own company origin story and consider how that shapes your identity.
- Listen to what your team enjoys about their work environment and what they want to improve.
- Identify patterns in your team members’ belief and create value statements that encapsulate the themes behind those thoughts.
- Share your culture via creative expressions that make your culture memorable and actionable.
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.
- Our mission is worth it — To be a part of our team means you’re all-in on helping us create something worth sharing
- The journey is worth it — We value process and don’t fear owning up to failure
- Our people are worth it — We create a community of respecting people and ideas, because people are our most important resource
- Our conversations are worth it — The way we communicate to each other, sharing praise or resolving conflict, matters
- You are worth it — Personal growth is a part of team growth, and we’re committed to helping one another improve
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.
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!