As 2021 draws to a close and 2022 looms ahead, most founders and entrepreneurs will already be focusing on growth targets for the following 12 months. 

It’s the time of year for planning and strategising, a task that is always challenging but is made even harder this year by the ongoing uncertainty about the pandemic and what the future may hold.

It’s not just about growth but achieving the right kind of growth. History is littered with businesses that grew too soon and too fast, and paid the price in terms of company culture. Retaining the culture that got you to where you are is vital. In a world where many organisations now operate with a hybrid working model, getting the balance right for both office-based employees and remote workers can be complex.

What is the best way of approaching this and ensuring that you achieve the right kind of growth?

Managing the remote working revolution

The switch to fully distributed working or hybrid models has been one of the most impactful consequences of the past two years. Organisations were moving in this direction anyway, but the pandemic has accelerated it enormously. I don’t think many people miss long commutes but getting the balance right in terms of workplace culture is tricky for start-ups.

Remote working has radically changed company culture. At Deazy, it wasn’t so much the major social events that were lacking but the conversations that happened naturally. So, we used technology to create regular team coffees with different pairings each week. It was an interesting way for people to talk to those they might not usually do. It wasn’t quite the same but went a long way in keeping the fun element of the business.

We recently attended Web Summit, and a recurring theme was how difficult it was to get the culture right with a hybrid model. When you work either fully in-office or fully remote, you can build a culture in a way that ensures everyone feels included. With a hybrid model, it’s more complex. To do hybrid well, it requires being intentional around building culture and social interactions. The organic chats just do not happen in the same way, so being proactive is vital. 


Reaping the benefits of hybrid working 

The hybrid and virtual models have enabled us to encourage much more diversity in hiring, such as hiring parents who no longer have to factor in the commute and the school run and people who live at the other end of the country. I had always been inspired to hire smart friends of mine when they wanted a three or four day week during their kids’ formative years, and it’s empowering to do so now.

It’s simple – let employees work where they will be most effective. If that means working from home to manage work alongside family commitments, that is fine. Equally, if people want the separation between work and home, they can come to the office. It boils down to trust. If you trust your hiring process, you will trust the people you employ to deliver good quality work, irrespective of location. 

I really believe that there has been a significant shift in mindset around this. There was once a perception that people need to be managed and directed or fail to deliver. That has changed to the idea of giving people responsibility, autonomy and empowerment, and them taking that to engage with each other, figure out solutions, deliver better results, and contribute to the right kind of growth.


Staying focused on the problem you are addressing

Maintaining the culture as you grow is one of a start-up’s biggest challenges. This can, in part, be managed by founders staying laser-focused on the problem their business is addressing. When attention wanders and focus is directed elsewhere, culture can go to a place you don’t want.

There’s a direct connection between problem, strategy and company culture. With a true focus on the problem, a strategy to address it, and then clear communication of that strategy so there is buy-in and clarity across the team, the culture becomes about enabling this. The team is empowered to deliver and make good on the company goals.   

Retaining your culture as you grow is always a challenge but doing so with hybrid working is something everyone will need to think carefully about in 2022. But being proactive about fostering company culture, putting trust in your hybrid workforce and remaining true to your core proposition will collectively go a long way to helping your company grow in the way you want.