Culture isn’t about perks. It’s practising what you preach.
MarketInvoice’s mission is to help small businesses “take control of their cash flow”. We see SO many business owners come to us looking for a way to escape the inflexible and murky bank offerings. The more we talk to our customers, it becomes obvious that words like “transparent”, “flexible” and “speed” cannot remain buzzwords. They need to be something companies like us live and breathe — internally and externally.
This isn’t a blog about how MarketInvoice helps businesses— if you’re looking for that, see what our customers are saying here. This is about MarketInvoice behind the scenes.
We’re not perfect. For instance, the diversity of the team isn’t great with less than 1/5 of the team being female. As my colleague Bailey points out we, and the wider FinTech industry, need to address this, not just explain it away.
This is a newcomer’s observations about how our company is trying to be what it promises our customers: transparent, flexible and fast. There has certainly been a concerted effort to improve our culture based on challenges in the past. And it’s worth sharing what we have done so far:
Brutally Transparent Q&As
Once a month we have an all company townhall where our leaders are asked to respond to questions the team post and vote on on Trello, either anonymously or with their name attached. It’s a really good way to take the regular pulse of what people are worried about/want to talk more about. People who are responsible for the respective areas raised get up and respond to the questions asked. This is often our CEO/COO but team leads for Marketing, Sales, Ops, Product, Risk also get called to account.
In our latest townhall two weeks ago we experimented with the audience live voting during the Q&A to gauge whether we were satisfied with answers given. At the beginning it was a little distracting and must have been pretty uncomfortable for the people answering. But the immediate feedback was incredibly useful. It’s very clear to the leaders where they need to do better at explaining context, and gives the audience a sense of, if not closure, then at least satisfaction. I don’t think anyone left that meeting feeling dissatisfied.
Open door leadership meetings
On Friday lunchtime the leadership team (C levels and team leads)get together to give key updates and raise issues from the business- from hiring, budgets, investment plans, office moves, policies, roadmaps. Typically in a company this would happen behind closed doors. I’ve worked one place where the notes are shared afterwards. But at MarketInvoice any employee can see the agenda upfront and dial- in live to the call. Many do. And it helps us feel like it’s our company too.
Connecting people across teams
Open by default — With the exception of customer data we try to work wherever other teams can learn from us. We use open Slack channels for day to day discussions that people from other teams can and do join in on. We keep all our files in shareable online folders (Google Drive/O365) so people can find them easily wherever they are. You’re encouraged not to reinvent the wheel but build on the work people have already shared. Every team has either big boards or electronic dashboards that others walk by and at a glance can see what we’re doing.
*Update* Live Stream to connect Remote Workers
We have a Manchester office where some of our sales team are based. The (remote) sales lead worked with the London office manager to create a two-way live stream so the teams can wave at each other and feel more connected. Here it is on Day 1:
- Weekly team updates — we have an all- hands every Friday when someone from a different team will stand up to share how they work, what they’re working on now and answer any questions.
Just as we’re mindful of our customers’ needs changing, employees’ needs also change. As MarketInvoice “grows up” we’re having to learn to adapt in order to attract and keep the best employees. Here’s how we’re trying:
Data driven happiness
We’re very data driven, including our approach to culture. Our Head of Ops (Acting Head of HR) sent out a link to a CultureAmp survey with questions crafted to understand how employees feel about working at MarketInvoice — the good, the bad and the ugly. 96% of the team responded and we’re having an open session on the conclusions and a ways to action these soon.
We’re outgrowing our office fast. Hopefully we’ll be moving to our new home soon but in the meantime our team tries to be flexible to accommodate each other. We suffer the usual issues of meeting space frustration — I’ve had to be quite creative with last minute customer calls. At one point everyone was getting frustrated but a reminder of common sense etiquette has meant that we’re no longer at loggerheads with meeting rooms.
Practical approach to flexible working
Basically the rule of thumb is if you can be in, be in because others will learn from you. But if you need to go to a doctor’s appointment, work from home or take your dog to the vet, do it. You’re a grown-up and people know you’ll be getting work done.
In January most of the office contracted a nasty flu that was going round. Many of us came in when we probably shouldn’t have because we wanted to get things done. But the COO rightly sent us home. It shouldn’t have been necessary but I’m glad he sent this:
We’re really focusing on delivering value to our customers faster — there’s lots of cool projects that are 100% geared towards reducing time it takes our users to do things. This is true of internal processes too as we think time saved internally ends up benefiting the customer.
Organise around speed
- We have split the Tech team in two in order to organise around company goals. The Growth squad focuses on Awareness and Simplicity of our product. The Trust squad makes sure we look after the money that moves through the platform (Accurate) and that we do this as fast as possible (Quick).
- We operate in an Agile model using Kanban, breaking up bigger projects into user stories to build minimum viable products as fast as possible. We test this with our users, iterating quickly. After each sprint we have retrospectives that help us understand where we could improve.
We know that innovation affects the speed that a business is able to move. We hold Innovation Days every first Monday of a new sprint so that our engineers can work on something other than their usual projects. This allows engineers to work with different people and create very quick fixes or features that can be iterated on later. The innovation day projects are chosen by are engineers not the business. Often they end up becoming official projects as they support the Trust and Growth engineers goals anyway.
In a previous life, I used to work with organisations looking to improve transparency and increase productivity. While MarketInvoice isn’t perfect, it’s trying things to create a great culture that some organisations — from blue chips with millions to spend on morale budget, to flashy silicon valley startups throwing VC money at superficial perks — struggle with. Culture isn’t about the flashy office or away days (as great as those things are). It’s about practising what we preach.