Culture is nowadays celebrated as a powerful tool in driving business productivity and keeping employees happy.
Yet is there a danger of growing companies – desperate to showcase a certain atmosphere they have sought to cultivate – coming unstuck?
“You hear a lot about the ‘culture fit’, but I don’t like to recruit on culture. You just end up recruiting the same profiles!” VIOOH CEO Jean-Christophe Conti tells TechBlast.
The London startup, which featured in 14th spot in our sister publication BusinessCloud’s MarTech 50 ranking this year, prefers to focus on values, says Conti.
“We recruit around alignment with our company values of integrity, being relentless, being courageous, team-focused and customer-centric. These values are not related to gender or ethnicity,” he explains. “It has enabled us to create a diverse team of people who are able to work together to drive the business forward.”
The company started by France-headquartered global out-of-home (OOH) advertising giant JCDecaux – with a minority stake held by data specialist and modelling company Veltys – launched in June 2018 with the aim of growing the OOH industry to compete with digital advertising such as search and mobile.
It has developed a supply side platform connecting programmatic buyers and sellers in a premium marketplace – making outdoor advertising more accessible to brands. Live in 19 territories with plans to enter Portugal, South Africa and mainland China this year, VIOOH works not only with JCDecaux but with all the media owners in the market including APG, Media Frankfurt, Framen, Media Transports and Tonic Media.
While Conti admits that COVID was a “formidable catalyst” in convincing the industry of the need for such a platform, it posed challenges around recruitment. “Starting a business relationship with some people that you just met through a 15-inch screen on your laptop is a bit of a complex thing,” he says.
“I deliberately over-communicated during those two years: I was sending the team two emails per week. One was personal: how to cope with COVID, the change of life, my own routine, values, culture; and one was sending the wins of the week, because we weren’t in the office to share this directly.
“We actually kept on recruiting during lockdown. We recruited more than 50% of our people during that time.”
This year VIOOH was selected among the Sunday Times’ 50 best places to work in the UK.
“On a personal level, I’ve learned that it is so hard to be able to scale up, trust and to recruit the right people,” continues Conti. “The real challenge is to be able to find and be surrounded with the right talent.
“You need to convey a certain vision and show genuine passion for the project. To attract the best, it also needs to be sound: they need to believe in you and the project.”
Conti, a former executive at Yahoo and AppNexus, adds: “I’ve always recruited people who are smarter than me! That’s the best way to progress.”