One growing electronic billing services firm learns that upholding its unique culture is worth the investment.
The following story was shared by Jim Kanir, senior vice president of sales and marketing at Billtrust.
Billtrust, a New Jersey-based automated and electronic billing services firm
Billtrust was experiencing explosive growth, and founder and CEO Flint Lane wanted to prevent the company's unique culture from suffering as a result.
In the course of two years, the workforce grew from 42 to 145 employees. Leaders were determined to transfer the "culture DNA" of the original employee group to the larger workforce.
Billtrust operates by seven core values created in the company's early days: customer commitment, invincibility, open mindedness, accountability and ownership, fiscal responsibility, active listening, and family first. The values are publicized on signs posted around the office.
Leaders determined simple and engaging methods to pass these values on to the larger group so new hires could better understand Billtrust's unique culture. First, they decided that transparency must drive all company practices.
In addition to an open door policy, leaders instituted a monthly all-staff meeting. This town-hall-style gathering begins at 11:37 a.m., an offbeat time chosen so that all 145 employees can demonstrate their commitment to the company by making timeliness a priority. Lane encourages employees to ask candid questions during this meeting, and he responds to each one openly and honestly.
Billtrust's culture is unique because it promotes fun and regular inter-department social interaction through companywide events. For example, the company hosts an annual team table tennis tournament. Employees take this competition seriously—some acquire custom paddles and some even take lessons from Olympic coaches at nearby Princeton University.
Billtrust also organizes two yearly bowling tournaments—one at the local bowling lanes, and a Wii bowling competition—during which employees contend enthusiastically for trophies.
Summer is an especially exciting time for Billtrust employees. Each week the company reserves an ice cream truck so employees can receive complimentary treats. The company also hosts regular cookouts, and departments take turns supplying a "grill master" whose skills are rated by his colleagues.
Last summer the company hosted its own Billtrust Office Olympics to coincide with the 2012 Summer Olympic Games. Employees from different departments formed teams and used sundry office supplies to compete in relays.
To kick off the new year, Billtrust plans its holiday party for early January. Casino Night was the 2012 event theme and included dinner, casino games, and coveted raffle prizes such as TVs and Nintendo game systems. Employees bring their spouses to this annual party as a way to immerse their families in the Billtrust culture.
Billtrust has found that its fun—and sometimes wacky—events bond its growing workforce and bolster the unique culture on which it was founded. Additionally, because departments regularly interact in social settings, organizational silos are minimal. Employees feel comfortable approaching one another for work-related needs, and productivity has boomed as a result.
Creating an engaging culture positively affects recruitment. During onboarding, new hires consistently articulate their belief in the company by expressing: “Everyone else offered me a job, but Billtrust offered me something I could become a part of.”