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How to Foster a Great Company Culture? Here’s What Top Startup Founders Think.

Written by Ralitsa Golemanova

You won’t guess what we did last week!

Oh, wait, knowing how fond we are of happiness at work, you might actually figure it out.

That’s right, we hosted the first Swipes talk on how to foster a great company culture. And to make sure we get the best ideas out there, we invited a bunch of amazing Bulgarian startup founders to share their insight.

On that chilly winter afternoon at the Swipes HQ, you could see some of the best and brightest leaders of companies in the country. Tunio Zafer from pCloud, Teddy Toneva from TriplePro and Georgi Ivanov and Yasmin Tezdjan from Enhancv joined the closed circle event to speak about how you work towards a company culture that delivers.

Tunio is leading a team of 40 people at pCloud, which is a progressive company delivering a complete solution for file storage in the cloud. TriplePro boasts a team of 10, led by the daring Teddy, and is a cross-channel marketing company based in both the Netherlands and Bulgaria. Georgi from Enhancv is also leading a team of 10 people, developing an innovative way to help people land their dream jobs with amazing resumes.

Where to start when you’re delving into a topic as huge as company culture? We outlined four main topics and the startup founders discussion revolved around them: recruiting, growth, top do’s and don’ts and the secret magic that makes a team unique.

We’re super thrilled to share these deep and useful findings with you. Without further ado, here they are.

#1. Recruiting

EnhanCV team at work, Photo credit: http://www.enhancv.com/

Enhancv team at work, Photo credit: http://www.enhancv.com/

How do you bring together an awesome team? Well, you choose your team players carefully. And let them choose you too!

Since Enhancv are the experts in helping people get the job they want and deserve, they were the natural choice to share knowledge on how to recruit your star team.

According to Georgi, the three top things to look for in people when hiring them are:

  • collaborative character
  • impossible is nothing attitude
  • got the smarts?

As for pCloud, Tunio shared their experience with recruiting people during the different phases of the company development. At first, it might be difficult to hire the specialists you want because they’ve never heard of you. But there are a few that will believe in you and will hop on the fast track with you.

Then, when you grow and develop, recruitment gets much easier. Most new hires come from references and recommendations of current team members. So it gets much easier to build a solid team – and one that shares similar values and views.

So where to look for the best people? Teddy from TriplePro says the best way to ensure a cultural fit when hiring new people is to announce your offer on social media. It’s real easy and you can really practice what you preach by making your ad tailored to your company culture.

#2. Growth and tough moments

What comes after gathering together a great team? Time for growth. But we all know that growth happens outside the comfort zone. This holds ever truer for startups.

That’s why we asked Tunio, Teddy and Georgi how they and their teams are coping with the changes that come with growth – and the tough moments along the way.

At Enhancv, the most useful way to adapt to changes has been to keep a flat structure with no hierarchy where friendship leads the way. Whenever difficulties have arisen, the main motivator for overcoming them has been the Georgi and his co-founders have put a lot of effort in keeping the founders’ spirit fresh, so that it spreads throughout the whole team.

Tough moments in a startup are abundant, so at Enhancv, they’ve had plenty of those when it comes to funding and finding the right people to develop the product. But the team has really come to understand that difficulties are a part of the game – and all can be overcome. When Georgi notices that the motivation is going down, they just hop on a Power Week – a company retreat to regain strength and boost the team’s power.  

As for pCloud, which has now more than 40 people on board, Tunio shared that the hardest moments where at the time when the team was growing from 10 to 25 members. You’re still not that big, but you’re also not a small tight team, so you need to start introducing some structure and to set objectives. During such times, his most important tip was to keep the passion in the team by motivating people, not forgetting to talk with them and keep their ambition alive.

In TriplePro’s case, Teddy sees as most important to always share the clear vision of the company with the team. When people know what’s going on, they can trust you more easily, and that’s how the team gets stronger. Even at times when you need to take tough calls such as letting people go.

#3. What makes your team special?

pCloud team in the B2B carting race Photo credit: pCloud

pCloud team in the B2B carting race Photo credit: pCloud

Startup life is not all holding hands and singing kumbaya, we know that. But we’re all very aware that every good team has a special chemistry. And what can that be?

Teddy, TriplePro: Sarcasm! The TriplePro team is all in for a good laugh, sometimes on the strangest topics.

Yasmin, Enhancv: In a 99% boys team, it all comes down to extreme sports and naughty jokes. But there is no better bonding experiences than the snowboard slopes and snowmobiles driving!  

Tunio, pCloud: The pCloud team can proudly claim to sing the Happy Birthday song in the most out-of-tune way possible in Bulgaria.

#4. Company culture do’s and don’ts

What does TripplePro stand for? Check this out. Photo credit: tripplepro.bg

What does TripplePro stand for? Check this out. Photo credit: tripplepro.bg

Do’s

  • Never forget to talk to people. However busy you are, make the time for it. – Tunio

Tunio has been through many different situations with his growing team, but what he has found out is that to really motivate people and keep them onboard, a leader should always create a sense in people that he is approachable. If you don’t have time for it, make the time!

  • Always leave time for chitchat and having fun together. The fun stuff should never be left out. – Georgi
  • Give positive feedback in front of everybody and negative one – in person. – Georgi

Don’ts

  • The balance between being a friend and being the manager can be tricky. Make sure you get that right, but always involve people in decisions and keep transparency at high levels. – Teddy

Teddy shared a recent case when they had to take a tough decision at TriplePro to lay off a person. Somehow the situation was not well communicated with the team, so they could not understand it. That’s how Teddy saw clearly that transparency and being very open with people is really important for the team chemistry.

  • However stressed you are, allowing your team to see that is a bad idea. – Teddy
  • As the team leader, don’t stay too long at parties. Always leave some time for people to have fun without the management. – Tunio

Let’s do it!

We all know that creating an amazing company culture takes a lot of time and effort, but through our own experiences, we’ve seen how meaningful and fruitful it is to make this investment. Taking the time to open up and talk about company culture in general – and their particular one – was a bold move by these awesome Bulgarian startup founders. Kudos to all!

The practical tips that Tunio, Teddy and Georgi shared with the Swipes team will certainly help us, and hopefully many other teams, to see the value of consciously fostering an environment where people love to work – and are most productive in.

Stay tuned for the video from this Swipes open session! Coming soon!

And see you at the next event on fostering a great company culture!

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