Human Resources Today

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Startup Culture: Q&A with Trupanion’s Darryl Rawlings

Dog A recent Wall Street Journal blog post talked about the fight for talent at startups. The blogger, Neil Blumenthal (Co-Founder and Co-Chief Executive Officer of Warby Parker), said, “The first step toward finding the right people is to have a deep understanding of your company’s identity.” This couldn’t be more true.

Darryl Rawlings, CEO of Trupanion (a pet insurance company whose mission is to help pets receive the best veterinary care possible), believes this to be true as well. Continuing with our Q&A series with startup leaders, today I’m sharing Mr. Rawlings  views on startup culture in his growing company and the role of Trupanion’s identity in hiring talent.

exaqueo: Does your company have a stated set of cultural values?

Darryl Rawlings, Trupanion (DR): Yes. They are: 1. We do what we say; 2. Simple is better (which is why we have one simple pet insurance plan); 3. Do not punish unlucky pets (meaning pet owners and their pets do not get punished with fees, restrictions, etc. for making claims. We want them to make claims! That’s what we’re here for!); 4. Do not be insurance-like. Be innovative and fair; 5. and We love our pets! And if you don’t, it was nice meeting you; however, you’re not a good fit for our company.

exaqueo: Can you describe your corporate culture in three words?

DR: Original, Fun, Passionate.

exaqueo: When you have made an effort to understand and strengthen your culture, what did you learn the most?

DR: I learned that the stronger the culture, the happier the team. And the happier the team, the happier they’ll make your clients.

exaqueo: What have you learned about the importance of culture that you can apply to the work you do for your clients?

DR: In my business it’s extremely important for every team member from the bottom to the top to be passionate about pets. Their passion for pets makes them passionate for clients pets. When you care about your work like we do, you do better work.

exaqueo: How do you manage having the right talent to meet rapid growth?

DR: When you’re growing as rapidly as we are, you don’t just find good leaders; you find leaders who will strive to create other leaders. Team work is important too, we only hire team players. We’re constantly on the lookout and keeping our eyes peeled for good talent. We spread the word about our company and network our tails off. It’s paid off over the years as we’re getting more people excited about our company and wanting to work with us. It helps our recruiters with candidates knocking on our doors versus the other way around.

exaqueo: Why does talent + culture fit matter?

DR: For Trupanion, the talent absolutely has to fit our culture (pet-friendly culture) or they simply won’t be able to fully understand the value we are offering pet owners. You don’t get the same high quality work from workers who don’t fit well. Quality is low and that worker’s future opportunities in the company are low too because they simply don’t fit our values. When I was raising capital for Trupanion, I brought a variety of big hitters into a room together. I asked them all to raise their hand if they had a pet. For those without their hands raised, I asked them to leave, because unfortunately, they just won’t get what we do. And I made them leave. I require everyone who joins our Board of Directors to own a pet.

Lexi Gordon is a Lead Consultant for exaqueo, a workforce consultancy that helps startups and high-growth companies build their cultures, employer brands and talent strategies. Contact exaqueo to learn more about how we can help you build a workforce that’s aligned with your company culture and develop an employer brand that will allow your business to scale the right way.

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Startup Culture: Q&A with SocialRadar's Michael Chasen

Let’s face it, culture’s hot right now. From Zappos and Netflix to Hubspot and Google, founders are eager to create their own manifestos and espouse a cool culture. I’m constantly reminding clients that it takes more than a list of values to create a culture. The values have to become part of the everyday of your organization. And that means you have to hold employees accountable for them. At exaqueo, we call them work rules. It’s how our clients go beyond a list of core values and cool perks to a culture that really sustains. As founders, sustainability is the model we should be emulating. So I’m always seeking founders who are making that happen–creating a culture that lives, breathes and sustains. This week, I caught up with one founder who’s doing just that.

Michael Chasen is the founder and CEO of SocialRadar and former founder and CEO of Blackboard, Inc. SocialRadar aggregates existing social data to better connect users in real-time, in real places. With almost $13 million in funding earlier this year, SocialRadar’s growing fast. That’s where culture comes in, and Michael knows the importance of getting it right, now.

Susan LaMotte, exaqueo (SL): Does your company have a stated set of cultural values?

Michael Chasen, Social Radar (MC): Indeed, and we worked hard to create it. An introduction to our culture.

SL: When you made the effort to understand and strengthen your culture, what did you learn the most?

MC: When we started the company, we knew that culture was going to be an important component of a successful team and product. We didn’t leave our culture to chance; instead we called upon various influences to establish it and put it in writing for all on board to refer to. It’s one thing to say that teamwork is important, but it’s another to operationalize the company to support that—for example, we have fixed “work late nights” and team outings. In other words, we have both scheduled group overtime and scheduled group fun time. We offer perks such as gym membership, healthy dinners on work late nights, and general flexibility with hours to show our commitment to a work-life balance.

SL: That’s so true–you have to have examples of the values in practice to make them come alive.  What will you do to grow the company you want to grow?

MC: If you build it, they will come, right? We are pouring our energy into fine-tuning a product that is not only cool but ultimately indispensable. Even our marketing team would admit that word of mouth can be more powerful than any planned campaign...

…continue reading the rest of this post over on Tech Cocktail where it was originally posted.

Susan LaMotte is the founder of exaqueo, a workforce consultancy that helps startups and high-growth companies build their cultures, employer brands and talent strategies. Contact exaqueo to learn more about how we can help you build a workforce strategy that’s aligned with your company culture and develop an employer brand that will allow your business to scale the right way.

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