A business leader friend of mine likes to say that culture beats strategy every day. I completely agree with him. Culture is the thing that gets the work done within a company. If your culture sucks then achievement is difficult. Your company will be hampered if your culture is broken or deficient.
During our tour of the silicon Valley, the #blogbus dropped by the offices of Eventbrite in San Francisco to have a chat with them about the way they did things. I’m happy to report that this is one company who have their corporate culture completely nailed and they intend to keep it that way.
Many people think that customers are the most important part of any business. Yes, customers are essential to a company’s success – but looking after your customers starts with your own people. If you have unhappy and disengaged employees you’re also likely to have disgruntled customers. Your people develop, build and sell your products. Keeping them content and engaged, properly trained and well informed is a vital part of any successful business culture. Time spent on them will pay dividends because happy people build better products and give those valuable customers proper service.
Eventbrite’s co-founder Julia Hartz is focussed entirely on looking after Eventbrite’s people who are known as ‘the Britelings’. As Eventbrite took off and scaled rapidly Julia realised that the culture and tenets of the company would no longer perpetuate organically. Scale meant effort and process was needed in order to maintain the culture that is at the heart of everything Eventbrite do and is key to their success and development.
They developed programs like the weekly chat sessions where employees gather with the founders to frankly discuss anything that’s on their mind. No notes are taken but concerns and problems are definitely listened to, acted upon and hopefully solved.
There’s a lot of listening going on at Eventbrite. When we arrived in the building I was greeted by Co-founder Kevin Hartz. After we were introduced, I told him I was a regular Eventbrite user. His response, after thanking me for using his product, was to ask me what I didn’t like about it, what could they fix for me or do better. I told them that cloning events was clunky and could do with some streamlining or improved functionality. Kevin thanked me for my suggestions and promised he would have his engineers and user interface guys look at it. And I genuinely believe he will. I was very impressed by this approach and it is in stark contrast to that of twitter, who seem immune to the thoughts and concerns of its users and developers.
This listening to both your own people and your customers is a sign of a great corporate culture and one that’s likely to help grow your company and profits. It wasn’t the only signs of a fully functioning culture we witnessed at Eventbrite. The workspace is also part of this picture. Eventbrite’s canteen was well stocked with coffee, soft drinks and snacks – all of it free! Yes, if you work for Eventbrite there’s no snack or coffee machine coin slot to gobble up your quarters, it’s all on the house. There’s even beer, literally on tap upstairs! I presume though that this is for after work or special occasions.
Talent acquisition and retention can be very tough in the Bay Area. Although there’s a lot of very smart and experienced people in the Valley, there’s also fierce competition to hire and retain it. Making your company a cool and rewarding place to work doesn’t just involve paying great salaries, the working environment and vibe is just as important – if not more-so.
Environment isn’t everything, getting the right people in the first place will help retention rates and productivity. Eventbrite recognise this and they take great care to hire the people who match and understand their core tenets. They hire not just for skill and experience but also for attitude. This is at the core of maintaining the successful culture they’ve established there. Eventbrite’s talent retention rates are about twice the area’s average and this is a sure sign they’re getting it right. Both founders, Julia and Kevin, still see every single applicant who has made it to the interview stage personally.
Eventbrite have developed some great products and they’ve enjoyed real success. This means that they are growing very fast. This growth won’t be completely without pain but I’m convinced that, because they are so focussed on their culture, that they’ll continue to scale while retaining their core values.
If you want to work for a really cool Bay Area company then you can look beyond the usual suspects, like Google or Facebook, at Eventbrite. And yes, they are currently hiring.