How and why we evolved our company values at MarketInvoice

Values — the building blocks of a successful culture?

If there is one constant in life, it is change. This is certainly true for any scaling business. However, while it’s important to be open to changes in strategy and tactics, there are some core principles that can help our team in facing up to these changes — we call these values.

A couple of years ago, my co-founder Ilya and I penned our thoughts on the types of people we wanted to hire at MarketInvoice.

Fast forward to 2017, MarketInvoice has doubled to around 90 people in the last 18 months, we’ve brought on board a lot of new faces, and have put in place a leadership team. In reflecting on our team, mission, and workplace we recently set about redefining our core values.

There are lots of talented people out there, but the question is whether they will fit here at MarketInvoice and whether they can help set the right culture to propel us to the next level. With now more data on our hires, our top performers, and overall spirit of the team we have a more accurate reflection of what the company holds as important.

The Process

We kicked off the process by brainstorming with our leadership team and debated themes such as getting stuff done, respecting differences across individuals, coaching and growing our team members. We encouraged managers to discuss with their own teams and took direct feedback from employees who had scored highly in recent performance reviews and stood out in terms of contributing to our culture.

By the end of the process we had the input of roughly 60% of the company and around 101 values written down. The next job was to categorise and figure out the common themes to distil them into 3–5 values. Importantly we wanted to end up with maximum of 4 values (I’ve met so many people from other companies who can’t remember their company values despite having heard them countless times). My benchmark was that everyone should be able to remember the company values at 2am when on the way home after a late Saturday night!

Our Values

After a few weeks of thinking and talking this through, we decided to soft launch the values to the company. One Friday evening in April we proudly announced our 3 core MarketInvoice values:

· #MakeItHappen

· #1Team1Dream

· #AlwaysBeLearning

#MakeItHappen is probably the value closest to my heart. It’s all about hustling to get the important stuff done first. Not just talking the talk, but walking the walk. Everyone knows that at a start-up there’ll be challenges along the way, so it’s not about listing obstacles, it’s about finding solutions both internally and for our customers. Answers are always out there — you just need to look hard and sweat the details. When we launched MarketInvoice many people said it was impossible to make this work, so when people say impossible, we mobilise to make it possible.

There are countless examples of our team making things happen in our short history. Back in 2013 when we were only a small platform, we worked hard to be selected as one of 6 platforms chosen for a strategic funding partnership with the British Business Bank — a process that entailed over 8 months of due diligence on our systems and processes. Another example was how we raised awareness of our invoice finance product without spending huge amounts in marketing: this was largely thanks to our hard work in getting the message out through press, customer case studies and word of mouth recommendation of our customers. We continue to punch above our weight in terms of brand recognition. And finally, many businesses apply to us each month because they have been frustrated or blocked from growing by not having access to funding — our response is always to listen and mobilise to do as much as we can to #makeithappen.

#1Team1Dream is a term our team started using organically on Slack groups whenever we worked together to accomplish a task. This is all about delivering on what we promise to our team members and customers — we don’t let people down. It’s important for every team member to put the company first, because when we succeed collectively we all succeed individually. We’re keen to ensure that everyone on the team has a voice, and we treat others how we would want to be treated.

Examples of this include how we still have a whole-team meeting every Friday at 5pm which rolls into team drinks. This quality time for the the team to celebrate key achievements and show-case how various teams have collaborated. We use this time for key company updates, celebrating customer success stories, and talking about the business strategy. Both myself and Ilya regularly take anonymous questions from the team and our answers are scored via anonymous polling (Poll Everywhere). Another example of #1Team1Dream is how everyone who joins MarketInvoice is awarded a share option plan to ensure that they are aligned for the long-term in our company success.

One recent achievement that’s impressed me is how our team has come together to launch our new invoice finance product MarketInvoice Pro within 6 months. This required product, engineering, marketing and sales teams to work together to build the product as well as get customer feedback as we signed up the initial users.

Finally, #AlwaysBeLearning is an important value for us as there’s no way that we’ll get everything right on our journey. It’s important to learn from our mistakes, and do more of what’s working well. The more we embrace that things will evolve and change the more comfortable we’ll feel working in a scaling business. We want all team members to be able to ask for and listen to feedback regularly, we want to challenge ourselves to learn and improve.

We regularly encourage “blameless retro” sessions, where specific individuals who worked in a project get together to dissect what went well, what didn’t go as planned and what are the key learnings. We’ve learnt a tonne of things since we started, and we’ve iterated our business model based on these learnings, so there’s no shame in stopping something that’s been done in the past to make it better.

How will we use our values?

As you can see we’ve positioned these values as #hashtags. Not only does this make it easier for everyone to remember, it also makes it fun and easy to call out people who are living them on Slack, emails and in presentations. We even have Slack to create an emoji when someone is tagged and we’re tracking how many times people are being mentioned alongside a company value.

These 3 values are going to be crucial in hiring — we have a separate values interview at the end of the recruitment process and before we give anyone an offer. We’ll also use them in ongoing employee feedback and in performance reviews. I’m looking forward to handing out our first values awards at our next team Christmas party!

But more importantly our values provide a great anchor for how we talk and work together. It sets a clear guidance for what we expect from everyone, no matter what role they play in the company. Let’s see how they can help shape our business going forward.