As companies scale, it’s easy for culture to get pushed to the backburner as teams struggle to keep up with workloads. It’s a challenge in any environment, particularly one of rapid growth. And that certainly was the case WebPT back in 2010 when the young startup began growing in leaps and bounds. When Heidi Jannenga, WebPT’s co-founder and president, began to feel their tightknit, scrappy culture starting to shift, she and her team took it as an opportunity to hit pause and put in place a set of core values that would forever shape the future growth and culture of the company.
What challenges have you personally overcome as WebPT has scaled?
I need more data behind me before I’m ready to jump and make decisions, whereas others are more willing to jump based on their gut. Over time, being in the software world and in a fast moving organization where decisions need to be made quickly, I’ve become much more in tune with my gut. Don’t get sidelined by analysis paralysis, but there have to be some key metrics you can look at in order to move forward to make decisions. Part of that is understanding that if you fail fast, you have the opportunity to make changes and not lose the entire process. Having an agile mindset has helped me to become less risk averse.
What’s been one of the best things you’ve done for the business over the years?
Culture is one of the true foundations of our success. Our culture is one based on 10 core values our team came up with. The first couple of years when we had 10 – 12 employees, we were able to transfer that culture organically. There was this understanding of expectations and people would adopt it quickly. But within six months of getting funding in 2010, we’d hired more people than we had in the first few years combined. We felt this cultural shift begin, so we hired a culture captain to help drive and make sure the culture was maintained and nurtured. Our core values as they are today were really born out of conversations and planning from our first 40 employees, and those core values still stand today.
What’s one area you’ve had to train on yourself as president of WebPT?
I don’t need to have all the answers. Oftentimes, people come to you for things that, at the end of the day, they’ll feel more empowered by finding themselves. The other thing is to just let go. As a startup, you wear many hats. I found myself being a jack of all trades. I was a master on the product management peice and leading the culture, but was not great at finance and metrics. As we grew, I learned to be self aware enough to know what I’m really good at. And by identifying areas of weakness, I could pass those things off to people who have those areas as strengths.
- Coffee drinker, yes or no? I have never been a coffee drinker.
- What’s one business tool you’re geeking out over right now? Pendo.
- Favorite piece of technology: My car, a Tesla Model X.
- What’s one book you would pass along to a fellow entrepreneur: “Rework”, by Jason Fried and David Heinemeir Hansson, the founders of 37signals and “Firms of Endearment” by Rajendra Sisodia.
- Who is one person you would like to have dinner with? Michelle Obama.
- How many hours of sleep do you get a night? I average 6-7 hours. On weekends, 8 hours.
Music in this episode: “They Just Don’t Know” by Gyft.
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