Unity depends on trust. That might sound obvious, but you would be shocked how often founders talk the talk of unity without walking the walk of trust. You can’t have one without the other.
Since founding Torii alongside Uri Nativ and Tal Bereznitskey, I’ve seen the importance of trust firsthand, however I’ve also witnessed that trust does not automatically scale with a company’s growth.
When a new company is born, it’s just a small team. You spend every waking moment together, and you develop a strong foundation of trust through shared experiences of building alongside one another. Eventually, if you have the right parts and timing, you will start to see progress.
And, with success comes growth. As the team expands, things naturally start to change as leadership starts building out their departments and the small core team of a few turns into a growing force of dozens. Usually during these periods of hypergrowth, new people join on a weekly or daily basis. If that team is remote, sometimes the founder’s only interaction with new hires might just be through a company Zoom call.
Since unity depends on trust, how can leaders extend this solid foundation from the early days during periods of hypergrowth?
Quite simply, you can’t. Instead, you need to make trust part of your culture. That way, the bonds of trust persist beyond your personal capacity. Only then, can you scale your company whilst maintaining unity.
This is (much) easier said than done, but let’s discuss three important steps for building this type of culture for a hypergrowth company.
1. Create the Right Leadership Team
At the heart of Torii, we are builders and makers. For example, from the beginning, Uri, Tal, and I focused on building solid roots for the company. Initially, that meant building the platform’s technology, but, as we grew, our attention and time were stretched thin. We could no longer simply focus on how each line of code contributed to the product. Instead, we had to create a leadership team that would facilitate and oversee those parts of building the platform.
In a sense, our role as builders and makers didn’t end, but it did shift from building the technology to building the team, which started with bringing in the right leaders – one of the most consequential sets of decisions a founder can make. Those leaders shape and change the company. Our responsibility is to ensure that change is for the better.
During our search, we looked for those with more than just industry experience. We wanted an entrepreneurial spirit and a willingness to build something from nothing. This trait is invaluable in the startup world. Many professionals only experience the world of incremental improvement (make something better), but an entrepreneur starts with a blank sheet and builds something great.
But it doesn’t stop there. Those leaders also need to exhibit a culture fit that aligns with the company. After all, these early hires will shape the company almost as much as the founders themselves. They hire and train their teams according to their values. If you want to keep trust as a core component of your culture, it’s not enough to trust your leaders; your leadership bench must also extend that trust to their teams.
2. Establish Core Values
Core values are both overstated and underutilized. They are easy to talk about, but difficult to embody. In order for these values to infuse the culture of the company and the direction of the leaders, they must be established.
At Torii, we have a collection of five core values:
• Be Open
• Customer First
• Execute Together
• Love Your Craft
Selecting these values was a long and thoughtful process. Values can’t only come from the top-down; they must also be authentic to the company as a whole. To determine these, we polled our employees and did extensive research to determine what values were present within the company. What words and ideas did we associate with the company?
From that, we refined and crystalized these findings so that the final five reflected the company’s reality while also pointing us towards where we wanted to go.
This process is ongoing; we are constantly reflecting and reinforcing these values. For example, when someone is interviewed for a new position, we ask the interviewers to keep these values in mind as it relates to the candidate.
Values are a social contract between the different company members—a mutual understanding of what’s essential. Maintaining the integrity of that contract ensures the trust necessary to keep the company united and focused on what matters to us.
3. Spend Time Together
One of the fastest ways to develop trust is to spend time together. In the remote and hybrid workplace, time together is sometimes hard to come by, but it is also worth the investment.
Digital communication is wonderful, and I’m thankful for it. However, you lose a little bit through those online mediums like tone, the intention, the humanity of the other person. That’s something that we want to keep in mind. Trust depends on recognizing the person on the other end of our social contract. A big step in strengthening the unity of our team lies in encouraging team members to interact with one another more freely – to get to know each other as people, find common interests, and laugh together.
There are ways to do this online, with Slack channels, Zoom lunches that aren’t company-focused, and happy hours. And now with pandemic restrictions lifting, we’re able to make time to be together in person—even though we remain a remote-first company. In fact, we just had a North American kickoff for 2022, where most of our employees physically met each other for the first time. Our North America team grew 5x over the past 12 months. It was wonderful and invaluable for all to come together around shared goals, brainstorm how to break through to the next level, and enjoy each other’s company.
As CEO, I’ve been lucky enough to develop a whole team that has a vision for the future. Not just the leadership; the entire organization knows where we are and where we want to go. As companies experience hypergrowth, maintaining that unity of direction is crucial. It can only happen through a culture of trust, transparency and openness.