How To Retain Company Culture As You Grow
Don’t Buy Her Flowers is founded on thoughtfulness. The core idea is to create thoughtful gifts, and our customers are conveying empathy in sending one of our gift boxes.
That could be for something as hard as bereavement, diagnosis or baby loss, or it could be for a birthday, but the core idea remains the same – it’s about encouraging someone to take a bit of time for themselves. Life is busy, lots of people are overwhelmed, so whether it’s a birthday or someone going through a hard time, a bespoke gift that shows how someone has thought about the recipient really works.
In order for us to stay true to all of this, it’s key that our whole business is one of thoughtfulness. From how we respond to customers, to sourcing our products and packaging and how we treat each other.
The core team at DBHF that have been with me the longest are also people I have known a long time – my brother is Operations Director, two of my oldest friends run Customer Services and the Warehouse and our Head of Marketing worked with me in a previous job. While people might feel concern about working with friends and relatives, it has helped massively with building a culture. Not only do they understand exactly what DBHF is, but they are in it with me.
During Covid, we experienced rapid growth, up 600% YoY by the end of 2020. This meant the team grew very quickly – we went from less than ten to more than thirty. There were a huge number of learnings with this, and I think where we knew our culture well, we managed to bring people in who also got behind the business and enjoyed working with us, whatever their role. There have been incidents where someone isn’t quite the right fit, and I now appreciate what an impact that can have on the whole team, and how crucial it is to try to get that right or tackle it if they’re not.
Aside from Covid, most of our growth has been incremental, and when you’re a startup and there are three of you it’s not necessary to overtly think of what your culture needs to be – we were all living and breathing it and very clear on what DBHF was, communicating all the time, all working towards one goal and every decision involved all of us . As you grow, you have to become more intentional about your culture, because you’re bringing new people in but also there are different areas of business that not everyone is involved in. That said, if someone said ‘we should pay a marketing company to write up our culture for the wall’ I’d know we’ve lost it. Perhaps that is something when you have a massive company, but conveying those core values should be part of the recruitment process, part of all communication and obvious from the outside looking in.
As the business has grown, we have had to evolve. We’ve needed more process and it doesn’t work to just pick up the phone constantly to thrash something through. There is more work to get through, we must be respectful of each other’s time and priorities and the business has more areas that don’t involve every team member. So, you need meetings that people come prepared for and agendas, to make that time efficient.
The business is really benefiting from our culture as we expand into new areas. Corporate Gifting and Fulfilment as a Service for other SMEs can both be very rigid and lacking in personalisation. With our fulfilment service, we have found clients that want to know their customers will be at the centre of what we do – we know just what it takes to get a customer, and how critical it is that they receive what they’ve ordered exactly as it arrived, that packaging has been considered (the opposite to when a tiny product ordered on Amazon arrived in a box that could fit a TV) and the response we’re seeing to that service tells me that other people have bought in to our culture.
The key part of our culture to retain is how we treat each other – we look out for each other. There is always someone having a difficult time outside of work. It could be a bereavement or a relationship breakdown or their child is struggling, and as the team gets bigger it’s more likely that a few of these are happening concurrently to different people. The team are all very professional and wouldn’t let it impact their work, but they are also human, and I think acknowledging those things, letting people know it’s ok if they’re having a quiet day and that we care, is important. Our warehouse manager is particularly brilliant at remembering difficult anniversaries – she’ll let the managers know and organise a gift from the team, and it means a lot to people. One of the team has been through a really difficult time, and she will message to say how grateful she is and I feel like as long as we can get that right, we’re doing ok.