Culture as a Growth Driver

Today is a special day for Algolia. Less than a month after being voted as the #1 private cloud company to work for by Glassdoor and Battery Ventures, we are recognized as one of Inc. Magazine’s Best Workplaces.

When we received the Glassdoor award, I found myself saying to friends (only half jokingly) that this was one of the rare awards that really moved me. It’s a recognition of the hard work we have done and our continuous investment in building a company we love.

Today’s award from Inc. Magazine is the icing on the cake! And it’s all thanks to the great people on our team and their continuous dedication to making the company — and all of us — better.

Culture eats strategy for breakfast

Companies fail every day. Even big companies, with the most advanced strategies crafted by the most competent individuals, get disrupted out of relevance regularly — and that’s especially true for technology companies (think AOL, Blackberry, Nokia, Yahoo..). The best way to avoid that fate is to build a team that is able to ride the waves of disruption, a team that is able to challenge itself, a team that is able to constantly get out of its comfort zone, and most importantly, a team that never becomes complacent. Chances are your next innovation is already in the head of someone in your team, not your CEO. This person needs to feel empowered to step forward.

This is the very reason why we have built a culture-first company.

It’s impossible to anticipate every challenge but it’s possible to intentionally design your culture and build the right muscles to address them.

Culture as growth strategy

The common take on culture vs. growth is that you have to make a choice. Will you risk sacrificing the culture to grow your business? Or will you risk sacrificing your business to preserve your culture?

This past year has been significant for us in terms of growth. In 2017, we crossed the $20M ARR milestone, opened new offices in New York, Atlanta and London, added over 100+ people to our global team, and introduced new leadership to our executive team. With such growth, there is great temptation to take a few shortcuts on culture: things like cutting corners on our culture-first hiring process, decreasing face time between our many teams and offices, or not devoting enough executive time to employee satisfaction and growth.

My take is that sacrificing the culture may indeed help in the short term, but it’s creating cultural and people debt that we would eventually have to pay back. Either big time by enabling a culture that goes against our values for the sake of short-term profits — eventually disappointing and losing the exceptional team that brought us here, or with slower growth caused by disengagement and turnover later on.

I simply don’t think we’d be anywhere close to what we have become today if we had not been intentional about the type of company we wanted to build. That helped us attract and empower the talent that led us to who we are today. It’s the same team that takes pride in innovating and making everything we do first-class — because we are engaged, vocal and accountable to our values day in, day out.

Make culture a strength in your growth, not something that slows you down.

I have a philosophy… if you hire the right people and empower them, then magic will happen.


Let’s not become complacent

We’re proud and humbled by the recognition we’ve received from Glassdoor and Inc., but we have so much more to do.

We have not made it yet, and we know it. It feels good to celebrate with the team, but we’re continuing to look forward, not backward. Many more challenges await. The faster we grow, the faster these challenges fall on our shoulders.

Culture is never “finished.” We want to continue building a culture of empowerment, diversity and inclusion. Whatever our future size, we want team members to have a sense of meaning in their work lives.

Today, we have a strong set of core values, shared and cherished by all in the company. It’s a great foundation, but we need more. We are creating operating principles to streamline our day-to-day decisions, as well as launching new diversity and inclusion initiatives.

Our goal as we continue growing is simple — we want to make sure we are building the company we want to work for tomorrow and in years to come.

Originally appeared in Algolia Stories on May 23, 2018.