Building a sustainable culture within a fast-growth business

Antti-Jussi Suominen, CEO of Holvi 

Over the years, countless fast-growth tech firms have struggled with the issue of company culture as they scale up. But why does this keep happening today? 

Several organisations reported in the media recently have shown that periods of accelerated growth are often volatile times for startups and proven just how important it is to maintain a positive company culture during these moments. 

Whilst a fast-growth business is constantly evolving, it can be difficult to instil an atmosphere of stability and consistency when it comes to culture. For companies scaling across multiple territories, this often proves to be even harder. 

It’s therefore even more crucial these surging scaleups set the focus on values and diversity when it comes to building a sustainable culture, which should be done from the outset rather than down the line when bad habits have already penetrated the business. 

Leading by example 

CEOs and other managers should always embody the values of their business. Values are the foundations of an enterprise, they define the way people work as well as shape their behaviour towards both customers and each other.

If management fails to lead through values, it has an immediate and long-lasting effect across an organisation. 

Having come into the world of fintech as an outsider, my experience is a unique one. It is often both exciting and scary to join a new organisation at any level, as there is a pressure to fit in one way or another.

Coming in as a new CEO, there is an added weight as you’re required to integrate seamlessly whilst asserting your position as a leader at the same time. Fortunately for me, Finnish business culture is welcoming by nature and the fundamentals at Holvi were strong already. 

A company with solid values will always find it so much easier to cultivate a culture that’s consistent. When hiring and inducting new people, values can then be explained from the outset to avoid onboarding talent that doesn’t uphold the standards and principles of the company.

Beyond this, when there’s a difficult decision to be made, employees have a collective understanding of why a particular path has been taken and can align themselves behind that choice. Everyone is on the same page and any unrest or confusion can be prevented as a result. 

Building a sustainable culture 

To create a business that isn’t limited by borders, you need a culture that’s diverse and borderless too. 

Making an impact and improving the business for the better are the hopes had by all leaders, whether they’re a founder or joined the company at a later date. However, as practical as a 

hive mind may seem on paper, it’s wise for these leaders to avoid creating a culture of clones that has all members of staff looking and acting the same way, which will ultimately produce the same outcomes over time – the good and the bad – yet this approach seems to be one that’s adopted by many startup executives. 

Employers will often justify a new hire as being a good ‘cultural fit’, but this concept is often misunderstood. Culture is about much more than a sense of comfort and familiarity with co-workers or paying lip service with perks and frills, it is about instilling a shared enthusiasm for your company’s mission.

The goal is to create a team that shares the same core beliefs, whilst at the same time offering different perspectives and new ways of thinking. That means hiring talented individuals across a range of ages, genders and races. 

This is a process that I’ve seen works well first-hand. Our team is made up of over 25 different nationalities and we always look to hire open-minded, curious people who are keen to learn new things and meet new people. As we have expanded across Europe, this approach has proved invaluable to understanding different markets and the needs of our consumers across the continent. 

Starting out with a core set of values and really fostering these throughout the business, leading by example, can help act as an anchor, even in the choppiest of waters.