The importance of values in a scaling tech company

Kane Fulton, July 7, 2021 2 min read

The following insights were taken from a session of our Advance: Scaling Leaders course, which helps founders and functional heads get the best from their teams while avoiding the pitfalls. Apply Now.

Video advertising company Unruly, which was acquired by News Corp in 2015, used a collaborative internal process to define its values: Embrace change; Share the Love; Deliver well.

The three values emerged from a series of creative team exercises. The first, a hackathon-style team building day, saw its employees express their feelings about the company using both physical and digital tools.

One employee built a series of interconnected islands using paper-mâché to represent the country’s international expansion, while another modelled a volcano to visualise its “explosive” future.  This “gameathon” approach complemented word cloud exercises and was a fun, relaxed and hands-on way to explore how Unruly’s people thought about the company and its unique qualities.

“Once you have your values, you start getting a clearer sense of what kind of organisation and culture you need to build around your people,” says Sarah Wood, the company’s cofounder and former CEO.

Value-led culture

Values are meaningless unless lived out in an organisation. To make Unruly’s values work, Sarah knew that its employees needed both clarity on what was expected of them and recognition whenever they achieved success.

The company set up weekly recognition “shoutouts” in its Friday Flash newsletter, recognising Unrulies who had gone the extra mile to Deliver, Wow, Share The Love, and Embrace Change. It included a discussion of how employees had embodied company values in every quarterly appraisal, and it gave as many people as possible the chance to manage projects and other people in order to develop and empower those with less seniority.

One impactful decision came when the adtech company devised a name for the type of people it wanted to hire: PANDAs (an acronym for Positive; Agile; Nurturing; Determined; A-team players). This formed the foundation for the company’s recruitment strategy and gave hiring teams a cheat sheet when seeking the recruits that the company needed.

With its values defined and PANDAs empowered, Unruly was able to determine its strategic priorities; set annual, quarterly and weekly objectives for teams; prioritise daily to-do lists and support staff with daily stand-ups.

If the challenges described by Sarah resonate with you and your teams, sign up to Advance: Scaling Leaders, Tech Nation’s world-class training programme for first-time leaders. Our inspirational training course is designed to help you overcome the key challenges you’ll face as your business and team grow. The course lasts for 10 weeks, and onboarding will take place on 24 September 2021.