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Tech Startups: Build a Creative-Thinking Culture

Liz Prugh January 30, 2017

“Culture” is a big buzzword in today’s business world, especially for tech startups. For many, it’s associated with company perks and branded swag. But why do we really make such a big deal about company culture and what function does it serve?

Culture is the engine that propels your company forward, and it should be shaped by what you’re trying to achieve. This extends to your office set-up, company policies, and yes, perks. Your culture exists to support the people and mission of the company.  

At Torchlite, everything we do is centered around advocating for the marketer. In today’s digital landscape we don’t really see an advocate for marketers. There are thousands of tools out there and tons of people offering the plumbing but not the solution. We believe that people need to be integrated back into the tech stack to solve today’s digital marketing challenges. It’s not enough to just create another software solution. It’s about bringing people and technology together.

Our platform includes a marketplace of digital experts (known as Torchliters) who come from 57 industries, 30 states, and 8 different countries. What we’ve found is that when you tap into people with diverse backgrounds and experiences, all sorts of wonderful ideas happen on behalf of the customer. This is why a culture of innovation and creative thinking is essential to what we do.

You’re never “done” with culture. It’s part of your daily routine and company DNA. At Torchlite we focus on four key areas to keep our culture thriving:

  1. Hire Smart People

At the core, culture is all about people. Build a team of diverse, driven players who share your company’s core values. For Torchlite those values are communication, collaboration, and curiosity.

Every week we recognize a team member for exemplifying one of our core values. Recipients have been selected for a variety of reasons ranging from their desire to understand the entire customer journey to providing recommendations on how to improve our platform. We’ve found that encouraging a collaborative environment helps unlock innovation in our employees.

When hiring, we look for candidates who share those values but also bring something new to the table. It’s that diversity that makes us stronger.

  1. Give Them the Right Tools

You can hire a team of A-players, but if you don’t give them the tools and technology they need, what’s the point? Before we bring anyone on board at Torchlite, we ask them what they need to be successful. Based on team member requests, we’ve made quiet work stations, more reliable video conferencing software, customized department hubs, and phone headsets available to the everyone. Equipping your team with the right tools allows them to tap into their own expertise and GSD.

  1. Create a Collaborative Environment

When people collaborate everyone benefits from the ideas and learnings that are shared. We see this when Torchliters and customers swap ideas in our platform, when our internal team huddles for a brainstorm, and when Torchliters ping one another for advice.

A collaborative environment centers around trust, respect, and a sense that we’re all in this together. To support collaboration, we rely heavily on our platform to share ideas. We encourage both our Torchliters and internal team to tap into the expertise of their peers whenever possible. In addition to collaborating within the platform, we also:

  • Have an open office where the entire team sits
  • Use Slack to swap ideas
  • Hold weekly all-company huddles
  • Reward collaboration with a weekly Core Value Award
  • Host Torchliter Tuesdays where Torchliters are invited to work from the office with us
  1. Establish Trust

When you hire smart people, show them what you’re trying to achieve, and give them the right resources you need to trust they’ll do a good job. At Torchlite we promote flexibility and responsibility. Everyone on our team is the boss of getting their deliverables done – in the way that works best for them.

Ideas that have developed out of this sense of ownership include Torchliter Tuesdays and our weekly huddles. Our developers are constantly incorporating feedback from across the organization into new platform features, and we even built a new internal department based on a team brainstorm.We’ve found that when everyone is focused on the end product and not worried about logging hours or checking boxes innovative ideas are born.

With these four pieces of the puzzle in place, ideas flow freely and innovation in unavoidable. At Torchlite we’re learning and evolving daily – constantly improving and moving forward. And at the end of the day, if our culture empowers us to better serve our customers, we’re going to call that a success.