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4 rules for building a people-first culture

Posted by Max Blumenthal | Jul 31, 2018 4:57:00 PM

A company is simply a group of people working toward a common goal. Companies are most successful when the best and brightest people are aligned, happy, and learning.

In order to attract the best talent to Fincura, we’ve been trying to build a people-first culture. It took me a while to grasp what that meant, and the meaning will surely continue to change over the coming months and years.

Today though, my definition of a people-first culture is simple:

  1. Build teams of the smartest people you can find.
  2. Help them to learn, to grow, and to be the happiest they have ever been in both their professional and personal lives.

The following four rules are the base for how I think about building a “people-first” company. I truly believe that these rules are applicable to all organizations, ranging from startups to banks to flower shops.

My goal in sharing these principles is to share ideas for attracting and retaining talent. It’d be great to hear your thoughts and feedback for how to create the quality of life in the workplace.

Let’s jump in.

1. Pay well

While the cost of living in major US cities has skyrocketed, wages have remained generally flat. Attracting a high-caliber team is never just about being paid well, but it certainly doesn’t hurt to pay well when competing for talent against the wealthiest corporations on the planet.

While we’re still relatively small, I use compensation as one way to show my deep appreciation for my team as well as my respect for their life outside of work. They should have the freedom and ability to afford a great life, especially in Boston!

Paying a bit more than what you think is “reasonable” can be well worth it.

2. Give real responsibility

The best way to learn is to be given the opportunity to have an impact. Entry level jobs often have some monotony, but that should be balanced by giving true responsibility. People will make mistakes, but very few mistakes cause irreparable damage. Mistakes provide a faster path to growth than being spoon-fed.

Additionally, it is not uncommon to hire somebody before finding that they would be more productive and happy in a different role.

I try to avoid putting walls around roles, and I try to put people in a position to have the greatest impact. My former workplace, Silicon Valley Bank, is an excellent example of an employer that gets this right. After working at the 2,000-person bank for only a matter of months fresh out of undergrad, I wrote a proposal that made it to the CEO’s desk. The time that I spent on that project was incredibly rewarding and exciting even though it had little to do with the job that I was originally hired to do.

One of our four company values at Fincura is to challenge the status quo, and our mission as management is to give everybody the flexibility to pursue their ideas. The worst-case scenario is that we may have to hire an additional person to fill the original role. Certainly not the end of the world.

3. Invest in technology

I have far too much on my plate to keep up to date with the newest and most useful workplace technology solutions. I believe that the best recommendations for new technology will almost always come from the eventual end-users. The tech world is far too competitive for a ten-year-old solution to still be the best on the market.

I’m always open to changing our processes and systems to make the team as efficient and happy as possible, even if it means that we trash another product that we just bought. (Remember sunk costs?)

4. Treat the team better than yourself

One of my favorite things about building Fincura has been trying to create the best place to work in Boston. I give my team as much as I possibly can, even as a relatively young company.

I enjoy thinking of perks and benefits that I would personally want in any job, then I determine whether they are reasonable today and scalable as we grow.

Wrapping Up

I encourage owners of any type of firm to challenge convention when hiring and building culture. The more that you think about where you want to be – rather than where you've been – the better off you'll be.

Topics: perspectives, articles

Written by Max Blumenthal

Co-Founder and CEO