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Big Commerce

Soren Harner.

Fast-growing e-commerce provider BigCommerce has shepherded its company from being a Sydney startup, with a handful of staff a year ago, to employing dozens of people in Sydney and its new marketing offices in the US.

“When you’re building the culture, you really need to understand who’s got the real vision for the company,” says Soren Harner, BigCommerce’s vice president of engineering. “It is absolutely a huge responsibility to have the vision for where the company is going: you want to bring in people who fit with that culture.”

In a company driven entirely by its staff capabilities, BigCommerce management has worked hard to ensure new hires are the right fit. For example, applicants are interviewed by their potential teammates and objections by any of those teammates can be enough to knock back an applicant.

“If you bring in people that other people want to work with because their purpose is aligned, they’ll attract each other,” Harner says. “It’s really like creating a space: we want to build incredible products that inspire our clients – and we need inspired staff for that. It’s all about tapping into people’s intrinsic motivation, and giving them an opportunity to express themselves – and to get really good at what they do.”

Fun, too, has a significant role to play: in the bubbling cauldron of innovation that’s typical of startup culture, staff are encouraged to be involved in regular ‘hackathons’ testing their technical skills – but there are also beer and poker nights, and other activities to foster teamwork and innovation.

Such events are more than just an opportunity to kick back: in a fast-growing company, they remind staff how vibrant a culture has been created – and grease the wheels to help staff keep working together productively.

With a strong sense of mutual respect and collegiality, flexible work practices become easier to implement and maintain – and information flows can be maintained despite increasing organisational complexity.

“It’s often hard for people to keep track of how the organisation has grown,” Harner explains. “Just a small bit of dysfunction creates a bad feedback loop that can cause a whole team to unravel.

“So, the real challenge with culture is getting it integrated smoothly, and for people to really appreciate and seek to understand each other so the whole team is engaged in that common outcome. When everybody’s on the same page, people just jump in and work together to do whatever they need to get the job done.”

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