We didn't know it, but about a year ago, our work lives changed for good. We had just closed our Series B, began a hiring surge, and started renovating a new and larger office to accommodate our growth. Then the government closed the schools and soon after implemented a lockdown. We all began working from home. We thought it might be for a few weeks. Yet here we are—I'm writing this from my home office.
We learned a lot in the past year. One important lesson is how challenging it is to maintain company culture with the combination of rapid growth and remote work. We've roughly doubled our team in the past year, approaching 150 people. Thanks to pandemic-induced remote work, most of us haven't met the majority of our colleagues in person.
Yes, we've been productive—to the extent that we've decided to be a hybrid company post-pandemic, with most people working most days at home (or wherever they please). But the culture that got us to this success is fragile. We must be proactive to help it survive and thrive. One of the most important ways to do so is by promoting our values.
Why culture is critical and values are valuable
Before I get to that, though, you might ask: why is culture so important?
I could give a long-winded answer. Or you can just look at companies that get this wrong—Uber, WeWork, and Theranos are just a few recent examples. At one point, for example, WeWork's strategy included cost-containment. Meanwhile, its CEO bought multiple houses, acquired irrelevant companies, overpaid for leases, bought and flew in a private jet, and got chauffeured in a Maybach. Is it a surprise the company fell apart under his watch? As Peter Drucker famously said, culture eats strategy for breakfast. In the case of WeWork's CEO, that breakfast likely included lobster and caviar.
Values play a fundamental role in company culture, as they influence what people work on and how they work on it. Values drive choices, choices become actions, actions become habits, habits become character, and character at scale is culture.
At BenchSci, our core values are FASTT—focused advancement with speed, tenacity, and transparency. Our culture reflects these values: we strive to maximize impact, continuously improve, move fast, overcome obstacles, and be open and honest.
Building and cultivating an aligned team
There are two critical aspects to promoting our values. The first is attracting people who share them—we don't hire for culture fit but value alignment. The second is promoting our values internally, encouraging everyone to own, apply, and hold each other accountable for them.
To this end, we're launching several new activities to promote our values to current and prospective future colleagues. Under the umbrella of "Think FASTT," we'll publish weekly blog posts and a monthly interview series, and host quarterly expert speakers. We're also shortly releasing our culture deck to explain our culture and values in greater detail.