Culture Starts At the Top

Culture Starts At the Top

Culture Starts At the Top 1600 900 33Voices

My go-to advice for startup culture stemmed from Greenhouse Co-founder and CEO Daniel Chait when he discussed the importance of maintaining a cohesive community through scale. 

As Greenhouse navigates hyper-growth, he outlined the importance of founders shifting their culture from an implicit one to an explicit one once they hit 50 team members.

Implicit culture shapes the values, work ethic, and traditions that will define your company as you grow. 

Whether you’re leading a two-person team or a group of 2,000, it’s vital to remember that: Culture starts at the top. 

There is no better description of that commitment than UpCounsel founders Matthew Faustman and Mason Blake, who have made it their highest goal to set team members up for success. 

UpCounsel is a marketplace for legal services. Targeted at startups and small businesses, the team vets lawyers who can list their services on the site. 

Mason describes it as a “virtualized law firm in a box” where you can hire a generalist or specialist for unique matters.

Since launching in 2012, the team’s experienced tremendous internal and external growth. They most recently cited 20% month over month revenue; Coupled with a 30% increase in lawyers signing up each month. 

To keep up with the demand, they’re now a roster of 30 and hiring for numerous positions. You can learn more about the open roles here

Exciting benchmarks aside, culture remains Matt and Mason’s top priority. 

This is how the founders make it a habit to cultivate one-on-one relationships with team members to optimize for sustainable growth. 

Onboard like a Pro: 

Opting for sustainable growth, especially when we’re flooded with headlines about massive up-rounds and our competitors making senior hires, would be futile if Matt and Mason didn’t instill quality values into their culture.

The founders core learning from the past three years is being obsessive about making the right hires for UpCounsel. 

When you make a great hire they 10x the organization.

Matt on the critical impact of hiring exceptional team members.

“If you are going to bring on the best people you have to make sure that you’re setting them up for success,” Mason said. 

Beginning on every new hire’s first day, both Matt and Mason are fully committed to work one-on-one with individuals to successfully integrate them into the UpCounsel family. 

As a founder, relinquish the idea that an individual, regardless of how talented, will join the team and be successful on their own. Translation: You can’t just hand them a computer and say good luck!

Matt and Mason rely heavily on intimate conversations with new team members where they share the company vision, how they’re going to get there, and the direct role he or she will play in achieving it. 

The time is also used to walk through how they’ll learn about the processes fueling each of UpCounsel’s departments. 

Most importantly, these early dialogues map out a clear set of goals for an individual to achieve in their first week and month. These goals not only enable new team members to experience early success, they also act as a safe gateway for them to actively contribute to company conversations. 

Intellectual honesty is one of UpCounsel’s core values, and the founders encourage team members to openly disagree and share ideas. 

Healthy debate is a thriving part of the culture and what Mason believes makes UpCounsel a strong team. 

“It’s not just one or two people making the decision. It’s the company as a whole,” he said. 

Whether it’s an intern, engineer, or a senior executive, make it a priority that everyone on your team feels empowered to speak up. This is the first step in leading a team of initiators. 

These rituals are especially important as UpCounsel grows and the implicit culture fostered by early team members lays the foundation for their explicit one. 

To gain deeper insight into Matt and Mason’s work developing UpCounsel’s culture, as well as their vision for the future of the legal industry, tune into their episode of Beyond the Headline and follow the UpCounsel blog

Here’s a glimpse of what we discuss: 

  • How UpCounsel is streamlining the transition from traditional law firms to digital marketplaces 
  • Tangible strategies to launch and sustainably scale a marketplace 
  • How to facilitate an ownership culture at your startup