Focusing on People and Culture Helped Turn the Company I Started at Age 14 Into a Global Business
My bootstrapped business now has 700 employees.
November 6, 2018 5 min read
Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.
When you start your own business, it is more often than not a case of learning on the job. Nobody gives you a training manual for how to best manage your teams, how to hire the right people or instill your desired culture. It really is trial and error, seeing which approaches work best for your company and learning from mistakes.
Malwarebytes started when, at 14 years old, I infected my computer with malware while downloading a video game. I turned to the internet and to those with the expertise to help me remove the virus, and the rest is history. From a hard-copy manual, we began writing free applications to improve and simplify the process of removing malware.
Along the way, this bootstrapped freemium product has transformed into a 700-employee strong, global business. I’ve learned a lot during this period from how to motivate a team and how to spot any problems that may arise in teams that you do not work with day-to-day.
Make culture, and your people, your priority.
The power of your culture should be a main priority in maintaining motivation and morale within your company. The steps you take toward this should be carefully thought out and tailored specifically for what will benefit your team.
For us, as we have a remote and widely dispersed team, this meant investing in technology that could bring that global team together. This helped foster a closeness that we were not able to achieve through a traditional office setting. To take this one step further, we employ a cultural ambassador to keep me informed of all aspects of our global offices from a cultural perspective and organize staff meetings and team-building events. Small things like this can make a huge difference to the morale of the team. Because I am often working away from the office, this is a great way to keep my finger on the pulse of the culture and steer it in the way that is best for not just one particular office, but the global team as a whole.
Once you have invested in hiring a dream team of industry experts, it shouldn’t be taken for granted that individuals will stick around. People across all levels of an organization have valuable ideas that can contribute to the wider business goal. All too often, ideas are not progressed through the management chain. To address this, we are working on an incubator system within Malwarebytes, where we skip right down to the individual and offer them the opportunity to spend 10 percent of their time at work developing those ideas. Giving employees this kind of flexibility encourages a high-performing culture whereby people are proud to be working on something they are passionate and motivated about. Some of our most recent innovations and products have come from our incubator, such as the Test Drive Workshop which allows our customers to take our products for a spin digitally. This allows us to now ensure a great experience for all through step-by-step manuals in a lab based environment. This is not a program that is unique to Malwarebytes; in fact, the Facebook “Like” button was created from a scheme like this.
Hire from your network.
This may seem an obvious piece of advice, but its value should not be overlooked. The chances are that the extended network that you have already built up will contain many people who are like-minded and passionate about the same things as you are and aligned with your goals.
Those that helped me rid my childhood computer of malware became an integral part of the team. In fact, most of them still work at Malwarebytes today. Tapping into your network, whether you are a startup or scale-up, will be invaluable if you are looking to build a team that are in for the long-haul.
Spend time with your teams.
As your business grows, it can be increasingly difficult to keep your finger on the pulse of how each of your team operates. While this is a great sign of progress and scaling, you may find yourself out of the loop and possibly out of touch.
I believe that it takes at least two weeks to spot cracks in an organization. This is why I spend six to eight weeks sitting with each team. Not only does it give me insight into the inner workings of my business, it also gives me visibility into any improvements that can be made. When we lost the head of our sales team, I packed up my desk, moved down a floor and sat in the thick of it with the team. Immediately, I was hearing phone calls that were missing important bits of information. This informed the need for a training program before anyone hits the sales floor.
Research has shown that only 20 percent of workers in the U.K. trust their senior leaders and a key reason for this is the perception that they “do not know what they are doing.” By spending a significant amount of time with each team, you will be going a long way to building that trust and can also promote a more open and collaborative culture.
While there is no one-size-fits-all solution to the teething problems you may face as an entrepreneur, these are some small steps that you can take to overcome some issues that are often overlooked.