15 December 2020

The ultimate scaleup dilemma: Hypergrowth vs. company culture


It might be one of the most prominent character traits of a scaleup founder: The ability to dream big in order to become even bigger. Oftentimes, the founders with this character trait are the ones who are seeking to build a hyper-scalable (tech) company, most likely with the help of initial VC funding.

The point at which companies have found their product-market fit and have been able to turn their commercial activities into a predictable growth engine, is the point where they will be facing one of the hardest founder dilemmas: Are we aiming for hypergrowth, yes or no? 

Of course, the arguments for a ‘yes’ are pretty obvious – if you have indeed found product-market fit and you can accurately forecast commercial growth, scaling your company (which starts with scaling your team) ‘just’ becomes a formula – with hypergrowth at your fingertips. However, this wouldn’t be one of the hardest dilemmas if there wasn’t a significant downside – and that downsize has everything to do with your company itself. Hypergrowth can have a catastrophic effect on your company culture if you can’t eventually transition this growth into sustainable growth. And as we all have experienced that the boundaries between working life and private life have become more vague in this era of digitalisation, company culture makes or breaks your scaleup (but more on that later). 

The good news here: It is actually possible to secure your company culture in a period of hypergrowth. In this blog I will explain how to achieve hypergrowth without losing your scaleup’s company culture.


Company culture: From an unknown concept in the 20th century to a crucial strategic pillar in the 21th century

Before diving into the concept of hypergrowth and how to protect your company culture in a period of hypergrowth, let me first briefly explain why company culture has become so important over the last 20 years. Cause let’s be honest, your grandparents likely won’t have told you about the culture of the company that they have been working for – simply because company culture basically did not really exist back then. So what has changed, that makes this such an important topic nowadays?

When reading a history book in the 22st century, the 21st one will likely be described as the century in which the Third Industrial Revolution took place. Technologies have evolved extremely fast, and this global digitalisation therefore has a significant impact on the way we live. Let’s think of it: How many hours per day do you interact with technologies like a laptop or smartphone?

As a result of this digital revolution, we are constantly connected. Phones aren’t switched off after 5PM, and laptops aren’t closed between 5PM and 9AM – simply because we have both a private and professional interest with these technologies. The consequence of this is the fact that boundaries between working life and private life have become more vague. For example, we do send messages in our Equalture WhatsApp group every now and then during the weekend. And as these boundaries have become more vague, we have also started caring more about the impact that our working life has on our private life, as well as the extent to which the norms, values and beliefs of the companies we work for are in line with our personal norms, values and beliefs. 

That’s why company culture matters – or to be more precisely, why your company can’t succeed without the right culture. Your scaleup’s company culture is the mirror of what your company stands for and what your company believes in – and if that’s not what your team wants to see when looking into the mirror, they will eventually leave you. 


How to protect your scaleup’s company culture during a period of hypergrowth

The last thing you want during a period of hypergrowth, which is mostly about team growth, is losing people as a result of losing your culture. After all, your culture should attract and retain talented people, and that’s only possible if you keep focusing on scaling your culture without losing its fundamentals. Here’s how to do so.


Step 1. Include your vision and mission into your actual work

It seems so obvious, having a vision and mission statement. However, it’s not so obvious that for the majority of all scaleups out there, every single employee knows it. A vision and mission statement is about more than just a sentence on your wall – and especially now that we’re all working remotely, visibility is not about physical observability anymore. 

Here at Equalture, we perceive our vision as our what/why (our end-goal, why are we doing this), and our mission as our how:

  • Vision: Shaping the world of unbiased hiring;
  • Mission: By helping SMBs collect objective insights on both their teams and candidates to base their hiring decisions on. 

And so, all activities within our company, whether it’s about product, sales or customer success, are aimed to support our mission. When creating our product roadmap for the next quarter, all potential features are assessed based on the extent to which they eventually contribute to our mission. And when we are working on our commercial website, the usefulness of the information on our website is assessed based on the extent to which it helps people explain how our product brings our vision and mission to life. 

I truly believe that you need to live and breath your vision and mission, because it inspires both your customers and your team, and it provides your team with guidance. 


Step 2. Translate your values and beliefs into behaviours

A company’s vision and mission statement goes hand in hand with values and beliefs. If your company is disrupting an existing market (like Equalture does), you might have a value that says ‘’Dare to think differently’’. 

Now, if we take this as an example, let’s translate this value into behavioural traits. If you want to attract people who dare to think differently, this probably means that you are looking for people who dare to think critically, are open for discussion and can adapt to new situations. Now these are behavioural traits. 

Linking your core values and beliefs to a set of behavioural traits enables you to assess people on these traits. After all, you can’t easily assess someone’s values, but you can analyse behaviour. Therefore it’s crucial to have crystal clear insights into the behaviour of your current team, representing your cultural values, in order to hire for cultural fit. 


Step 3. Translate your behavioural traits into a cultural fit assessment

Now that you have a clear vision and mission, that’s brought to life through your team’s behaviours, the last step is standardising a cultural fit assessment into your hiring process. A free option is including a set of questions into your initial application form that everyone needs to answer, where each question represents a behavioural trait. What I would highly recommend you here is to include these questions as early as possible in your hiring process, since you don’t want to either lose high-fit candidates, or spend too much time on low-fit candidates. 


Equalture’s cultural traits analysis to protect your company culture

An important feature within our platform is what we call our Teams Feature, which leverages neuroscientific games to analyse your current teams on their skills, personalities and behaviour. The aim of this feature is to help our customers reveal their hiring needs, by looking at both the results on both team-level and company-level.

What our software does on company-level is searching for patterns in the scores on the different games. If the vast majority of a company scores for instance consistently high on a game measuring adaptability, this could indicate a cultural trait. By having these insights into your company’s cultural traits, you can assess candidates on their fit with your cultural traits by letting them play the same set of games. 

In case you’re interested in learning more about our Cultural Traits Identifcator, here you can schedule a call with one of our amazing team members.

So that’s it. I firmly believe that it is possible to experience a period of hypergrowth without losing your scaleup’s company culture – you just need to have a crystal clear overview of the behaviours representing culture, and try to find talent who identify themselves with these behaviours. And the most important thing here: Cultures will change eventually, and that’s okay – as long as you don’t lose track of your vision and mission, because after all, that’s what intrinsically motivates your team to get the most out of every single day. 

Cheers, Charlotte
Co-Founder & CEO