A few weeks ago, Contractbook invited all employees to a meetup in Italy. It’s something we’ve been doing at least annually since we founded the company to rally the team around our mission and cultivate our culture. It’s proven to be a brilliant way to create a sense of bond and unity between our two offices in Copenhagen and New York and all our distributed teams.
Due to this freaking pandemic, it hasn’t been possible for the past 1.5 years. However, that only made this year an even more incredible experience. We have been growing a lot lately (in fact, we have doubled our headcount in less than 12 months), so it was overwhelming to see everyone gathered for the first time. Have we really built this? I thought to myself.
I am incredibly proud and honoured by the show-up and all the energy people dedicated to the event. It proves to me that we are building a very special company with a very special culture.
Recruiting is like dating
It’s a challenge to maintain culture when scaling a business so rapidly, but the meetup assured me that we are managing quite well.
I believe the key is our unique approach to recruitment. It’s something that I care very much about and have written about previously. (here for example). But it’s only recently I’ve realized that we are doing things a bit differently.
My method is to be as honest and authentic as I possibly can. I don’t see recruitment as a beauty contest. I see it more as dating. We are going to work closely together - hopefully for a long time - so both parties must be comfortable in the setup and know for sure whether it’s the right fit.
When I hired our sales director, we went for walks, had brunch together and took a few beers at our favorite bars. I wanted to really get to know him, and I wanted to feel that I could trust he was in the company for the right reasons. I didn’t just care for his CV and his skills. I needed to be sure that he was the right fit for our culture. You see... like dating.
So what is our culture?
I’ve thought a lot about that, and it’s very hard to pin down. I guess you can say that it’s informal, flexible and not very hierarchical. That it’s insanely transparent and that it’s based on trust and self-organization. That we like to have fun and probably party more than most other companies. Some would say that the culture is very young. Which makes sense because we are young and we are making a product for the younger generations.
The reality is that my co-founders and I just wanted to create a workplace that we would like to work in. Our culture is authentic. It’s us. We don’t like rigid organization diagrams and a sick performance culture. We thrive at social places where people actually like being and where everybody works because they have a purpose and believe in the vision.
Contrary to most other tech companies, we are not a family. I repeat: Contractbook is not a family! Nobody is forced to be here. We are more like friends because we decided to be so.
When I recruit, I always think: if I meet this person in 10 years, I would still want to sit down with them and talk about that crazy time we had in Contractbook and all the good memories we made together? No matter if we became millionaires together or crashed and burned. If the answer is yes, they are a potential candidate.
This approach is not something we’ve planned in detail and strategized a lot about initially, but it has turned out to work really well. Partly because it resonates well with the younger generations of the workforce, which is lucky for us. But more importantly, because it’s authentic.
We are not trying to convince anyone, and we don’t pretend to win the beauty contest. We are just us - and that makes our relationships so much more meaningful, long-lasting and successful.
A team on a mission
You never know whether it will work out in practise. So it was nice to see - during our meetup in Italy - that the culture thrives and that our approach to recruitment seems to work.
We partied together, laughed together and had deep conversations with each other. Some played football in the afternoons; others met for morning yoga or a swim at the pool. And, of course, we all met for some great discussions about the direction of the company and the mission we are on: To build a new foundation for contracts.
Contracts are fucking broken. We are here to fix them. As our general manager in the US recently pointed out, the way most companies manage them hasn’t changed for about 20 years. They still use PDF’s, which is an awful idea if you want to utilize the data in your contracts to synchronize between systems, make self-executing contracts and automate your legal obligations. The younger generations of business leaders will not accept that reality, and that is the problem we are solving.
We are the new foundation.
You can repeat that for yourself a million times; you can put it in a million strategy documents, pitch decks and marketing pages - and you never know if it’s going to work or not. But when I see my team, energized and enthusiastic - uniting around that mission, then I feel nothing can stop us.