Preserving the Rubicoin Culture
When you have a good thing going and growing, maintain it and prescribe a direction.
When college friends express scorn some ten years on about what skills our time in art college gave us to use in the real world, I’m always quick to point out how much that time taught me, personally, about people.
People and their behaviours so often make or break a thing.
The experience of art college could be considered an early exposure to a ‘survival of the fittest’ situation. You are asked, in groups, to conceive of ideas, create prototypes, and then stand up and present them to your peers in order to convince them that your ideas (and you) are clever, interesting, and viable.
Observing people in this environment exposed me to a myriad of human behaviours.
I noticed that the people who had the courage of their convictions were taken more seriously. The people who had done the necessary reading and research were better able to articulate a firm position and could convince others to go along with them. The people who could raise their hand when others could not and those who could debate and disagree respectfully emerged as natural leaders.
I also observed how people dealt with things like stolen ideas, failure, jealousy and sabotage, but that’s a separate post.
What I observed in art college is that, in order to achieve anything significant, your behaviour and your approach to the people involved is critical. It’s this that reminds me of my experience of start-up life in Rubicoin.
As a young company whose product is still evolving, we generate and improve ideas together every day. We have a shared mission and a common goal, so our approach to each other is incredibly important for the business.
Having been the first full time employee on the payroll in Rubicoin, I have witnessed dramatic change. I’ve seen the company grow from the 2 co-founders to now approaching 20 people. I’ve watched as the product took different twists and turns. I’ve moved through three different office spaces. I’ve been part of difficult conversations and joyful celebrations. I’ve worked through small failures and considerable wins.
It’s been great and it’s been real. We’re a bonded team. And I believe that’s down to a genuine approach to company culture that comes from the top and has been encouraged from the very start.
Good culture is built around the people within a specific situation and their behaviours. To borrow a line from the now infamous Netflix culture deck:
“Real company values are the behaviours and skills that we particularly value in fellow employees” — Reed Hastings
This is proposing that actual company values are the culture that’s lived in the company every day. With this in mind, I’ve reflected on a number of things we’ve done in Rubicoin to preserve and prescribe our culture.
1. The founders are available to everyone.
This has always been true, but this year we decided it was particularly important for new hires. We’ve created an induction schedule and one of the first things on the agenda is time spent with our co-founders to simply absorb Rubicoin.
This decision came from a valuable conversation I had with Jeff Gardner, Director of Customer Support & Success at Intercom (a company whose blog I love keeping up with), where we discussed how your internal culture eventually drips down towards the customer. A point Jeff made about how a small team can learn by osmosis really resonated with me. With growth and scale, you need to re-assess how people absorb the company’s core values and mission.
2. The entire team lives the product.
Everyone in Rubicoin is an investor.
In your first month with us, you’re given $100 to invest in a company of your choice through the Invest app. This is something that allows us all to travel the investing journey we are asking our customers to take and experience the app as our customers do. It also means we get to follow the Rubicoin investing philosophy by fulfilling the first of our five golden rules.
Understanding that everyone in the company ultimately serves the customer became important after I discussed customer centric culture with Emma Doyle, Customer Obsession Programme Manager in Laya Healthcare—a company that champions the customer in everything they do.
3. Big decisions feel democratic.
Sure, there will always be co-founder decisions, management decisions, and decisions made by those within their specific roles. But when something changes within the company that affects our core beliefs or processes, we usually come together for an ‘All-Hands Meeting’.
The point of this is to make sure everyone’s voice is heard. If you want the floor, you can have it. And if you feel passionately enough and are willing to partake in a robust conversation, we’ll dedicate time to a workshop until we all feel as aligned on the task as possible.
4. Breaks are not just allowed, but encouraged.
Breaks during your working day, apart from scheduled meetings, are up to you.
Want to take a walk in the park and get a break from the screen? Go ahead. We’re very lucky with our office location, which helped our decision when naming this publication.
If you’re working on a project or task that is challenging you or requires a specific setting, working offsite is possible. If you’re not feeling well, you’re encouraged to take the time you need to recover and come back to the job refreshed.
The attitude taken is that the work will get done. And so far, it always has. This understanding has been extended to family crises, moving house and heartbreaks — something I have never experienced in a company before.
5. Small, sweet rewards, together, and often.
Every employee in Rubicoin has two birthdays.
On your birth date, you get the day off. Pretty good. On your Rubicoin birthday, which is the day you started with the company, you get cake.
We take time to share everyone’s Rubicoin birthday together, usually in our kitchen, and one of our co-founders talks about your time with the company so far. It can be light-hearted or it can be a conversation that touches on shared achievements. It’s completely separate from any performance reward. It’s a tradition formed by the founders themselves so they can thank us for another year and express their gratitude for each team member’s time and belief.
It’s not just a cake culture, we also enjoy movie nights, poker nights and pizza parties together as downtime.
We’ve made these efforts because culture is very important in Rubicoin.
Because we know that fulfilled and considered employees will have a positive impact on our competing business priorities, the customer, and ultimately, the bottom line.
We’re still growing right now at Rubicoin. In the new year, we will welcome more new hires, we will witness more changes, and we will face more challenges in 2018.
Our culture is still not set, but it is constantly being maintained and prescribed.