How To Maintain Your Company Culture In A Growing Remote Team
Seeing your company grow can be one of the most exhilarating things in your professional life. It shows that your idea works, your vision is shared, and you’re being successful. But with growth come challenges. How do you maintain your team’s culture when that team is growing fast? It’s even a bigger challenge when the team is remote.
Who better to share his experiences that our own CEO Serkan Kurtulus? He grew the Cowork7/24-team to 13 people across 7 countries in about one year. Time to ask him some questions!
When you started Cowork7/24, did you have a vision for the company’s culture?
‘Great things can only be achieved with a great team.What matters more than professional skills is the mindset and attitude. I wanted to build a team that believes and lives in the new way of working – being able to work freely and productively from anywhere. A team that can work without borders, multiculturally, and collaboratively.’
How did you establish and maintain that culture? Where did you start from?
‘I think it all starts with continuously and consistently talking about who we are, what we want to be and how we want to work. This helps to attract the right people. I’ve so far built my team of diverse and talented people that I met from different aspects of my personal and professional circles – networking events, friends of friends, while traveling, etc.’
‘Then you need to enable them to connect to build the culture. I encourage the team to get to know each other and work together closely. For example – our Istanbul team members meet twice a week, at a different coworking space every time. The whole team comes together every 2-3 months in one city for a week of coworking.’
Being part of this team of 13, I can definitely agree with that approach. In the first year, we had 4 meetings where everyone was present, and every single meetup was definitely a boost for the relationships within the team. When spending 4 or 5 days together, you really get to know each other, which makes further online communications a lot easier.
How would you describe the current Cowork7/24 team culture?
‘We have a flat organization. I may call it a team-based culture where everyone is encouraged to participate and contribute to all discussions. We have almost no rules, but instead, we work with principles. We are very open and transparent with each other. Everyone’s opinion counts. We learn from each other. We are courageous to explore and learn. We have fun. We celebrate success. I want us to be a team that everyone wants to work in.’
Now that you’ve built a growing team of 13 people, what were the actions that contributed most to establishing and maintaining this culture?
‘I think what really helped was to “walk the talk”. I will never want a team that always agrees with me or always does only what I ask them to do. I want a team that is self-sufficient to make decisions and to take the right actions, without having the fear of getting flamed. My job is to enable them to perform at their best.’
What were some of the challenges you faced while establishing and maintaining this culture?
‘The combination of everyone working remotely and with 12 out of 13 people communicating in their second language, there is a bigger chance for misinterpretations and misunderstandings. It’s just part of the deal when you’re working with an international team. The best you can do is to recap what is being said and agreed upon with every meeting, and to create an environment where people feel safe to speak up when they don’t understand something.’
‘Another issue that is unavoidable is technology. It’s the biggest enabler for our industry and way of work, but we’re also very dependent on it. When it fails, whether it’s a bad internet connection, or no connection at all, there may be times you can not do much about it. There comes in the can-do attitude. We are flexible to switch from one tool to another, switch to text-based chatting, or reschedule (sometimes to hours that may sound odd in other teams!) with ease. Everything that is needed to keep the personal and team connection in place to make sure business continues to run smoothly.’
What’s your best tip to an entrepreneur who is about to expand their team?
‘Hire great people when you meet them, even if you do not have a specific role in mind for them just yet. Great people will define their own unique contributions for you, find their fit within the team, and define their own role. Work with people who believe in your vision, with people who will step in and step up for you when you are not around.’