Building Culture: Lessons Learned

5 Minutes

Utrust was created in 2017 in sunny Braga, a city in the North of Portugal. We started as a ...

Utrust was created in 2017 in sunny Braga, a city in the North of Portugal. We started as a small but very passionate team that shared a strong belief in the democratisation of money and wanted to lead the world to cryptocurrencies adoption. For this entire time, we have been building a blockchain-powered payment ecosystem that allows businesses to accept cryptocurrencies just like they do with traditional ones. Our product allows anyone from anywhere in the world to embrace all the advantages of this new and powerful form of money without going to the trouble of even learning what a blockchain is. We also provide an invoicing solution, so anyone, from digital nomad freelancers to massive real estate conglomerates, can find the perfect solution to suit their needs. Our mission is to safely provide every business with a new revenue stream and every individual with the freedom to pay. And we mean it. Starting small, dreaming big Even though Utrust started with a small team, mostly located in Portugal, we established a remote-first culture from the beginning. We knew we were going to reshape payments, so we had to ensure that our way of work would allow for an inclusive, multi-diverse and international team. As human beings and as professionals, we keep evolving every day. We encourage our people to be innovative, to invent different solutions for the challenges we face, and to try different things. We adapt. So why shouldn’t our culture change as well? It is our belief that it’s not the people who should adapt to a company’s culture. It’s the culture itself that needs to be flexible enough to accommodate change. Because change isn’t just inevitable, it’s desirable. We’re scaling fast and we want to double the size of our team in the next few months. Hiring in web 3.0 is a challenge in and of itself. It’s a relatively new vertical, and precious few of us started our careers working with this tech. We’ve all move here from somewhere, and it’s become our job to show people why that’s a good idea. We need to make sure that every person that chooses to take that leap and join our team feels valued and part of a unique, talented and caring community. Rediscovering the outside… One of the ways we work our culture more in-depth is by holding company retreats. At least once every year, we spend a few days together somewhere away from our offices (home or otherwise), where can we gather the entire organisation. We make it a point to allow everyone to focus on Utrust’s culture and strategy. This is a truly team-centric event, and we go to great lengths to ensure everyone has the conditions to achieve its goals, which are quite clear and specific: ● We want our team to get to know and bond with each other; ● We want this to happen in an informal environment; ● We want to remove all digital barriers; ● We want to provide the team with an active voice in our company’s culture; ● We want to sharpen the conversation around our strategy for that year. A company’s culture is something you need to work on every day. We believe in this quite strongly. But day-to-day work can sometimes need a powerful boost like this. Operating a business in such a fast-changing industry and trying to grow the team at the same time is quite a challenge. A not insignificant part of that challenge is maintaining a distinctive culture. Utrust’s core values are evolving as we evolve, and they have grown to encompass a diverse mindset that stems from the team itself and accommodates the uniqueness of each individual. It is vital to us that our mission and our culture represent the core values of who we really are as a company and what we stand for as a web 3.0 organisation. We want a team culture that’s truly defined by our people, and not a culture of one repeated by many, as we see other companies doing. …to protect the inside This year, our company retreat had an even more meaningful impact on the team. After a world-wide pandemic that affected everyone, as well as a successful recruitment period where we onboarded several people from different geographies, the emphasis was to get everyone to meet each other and bond. We wanted everyone in the same place, face to face, away from all the webcams and microphones. This was goal number one. We also wanted to take the opportunity to have some discussion sessions about our mission, values and short-term strategy. In fact, we wanted to come up with a brand new mission statement together, in person, face to face. We succeeded, by the way. That very same mission statement is the second paragraph of this article. We scheduled four days in a gorgeous location surrounded by nature, planned some outdoor team-building activities (kayaking, treasure hunt, plenty of walking on the woods and beaches), and made sure to save some time for work and discussion sessions. First thing on the agenda: communication. How could we make sure to improve the way we communicate with each other and as a company? We are very transparency-driven, so this is a key subject for us. We want to cultivate a human-centric, diverse, healthy and comfortable work environment. We want to foster a culture that allows our team to develop their talent and skills. So we held a learning session about communication, organised to allow everyone plenty of time and space to speak, and quickly gave the floor to our team-members. It worked as well as we could have hoped. Everything else stemmed from this conversation. We revisited our company mission and our core team values, focusing on understanding how to innovate regarding the way we work. We let the team provide insights on how we can be more collaborative, and how best to keep in mind the goals that were defined at the beginning of the year. Allowing the team to direct us Most leaderships choose to define the mission, vision and values of the company themselves, and use them as management tools. We decided to do it the other way round. One of the most significant moments of our retreat was when we redefined all three together. We believe that having an open discussion about our mission and how we get there is crucial to ensure that everyone resonates with whatever the end result is. This is our culture and what we want to achieve together. What we have learned is that this level of engagement and commitment goes both ways: when we chose to involve our team in the decision-making process, it became clear that everyone fully understood what our direction and focus should be. Every single person in that room is now invested in holding the company accountable to its mission. Shared ownership As a Web3 organisation, shared ownership is part of our DNA. It has been from the get-go and it manifests in everything we do, big and small. The way to build our culture may come with extra steps that other companies aren’t willing to take. It may feel like we should be more wary of relinquishing control. If you understand this business however, you’ll know that there really is no other way. You can’t build a collaborative environment if your culture is upstream from the team. Every single person in our team has shared ownership in our company culture. And we wouldn’t have it any other way.
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