The PivotDesk Blog


PivotDesk Event Q&A: Revolutionizing Company Culture

Soon after launching Been There, Done That, we heard from many of you that you wanted more — more coaching, more resources, and more access to the network of entrepreneurs PivotDesk has built.

So, we started to host events designed to give you just that…more!

Rather than limit the benefits of these events to attendees only, we’ll be sharing the key insights we covered live, right here on the blog.

Keep an eye out for more PivotDesk event recaps coming soon.

Revolutionizing Company Culture

Leaders from top NYC tech companies on building and maintaining inspiring organizations with kick-ass cultures.


As a workforce, our understanding of company culture is undergoing a massive shift, and chances are, your business will feel the changes. To help you prepare, we put together a panel of leaders in NYC tech who shared their secrets to building (and maintaining!) amazing company cultures. Our Revolutionizing Company Culture panel co-hosted by Trinet, brought together execs from Hinge, Pager, PivotDesk and Vega Factor. The panelists laid it all out on the table as they shared their own experiences (good and bad!) with creating a strong company culture.

What is company culture anyways…

Q: How do you define culture?

Lindsay McGregor, Co-founder and CEO of Vega Factor and author of Primed to Perform, kicked us off by explaining her research around company culture: “Culture is incredibly simple: it’s the reason behind why people work, and the why determines the how. An employee’s reason for going to work every day should not just be a paycheck, and if it is,” she concluded, “it will show in their their work.”

Justin McLeod, CEO and Co-founder of Hinge, had a bit of a different take on what company culture means. To him, culture breaks down into how your team solves problems. “It is great to have nice employees and to make sure every employee has purpose, but what really drives the bus is how your team solves problems.”

Oscar Salazar, CPO and Co-founder of Pager, contributed a different perspective on what culture means to him. He believes that decision making and behavior are the most important aspects of what define culture for Pager, explaining passionately: “If you have ping pong tables, beer and basically a playground in your office, that is great, but if the leader of the company behaves like an asshole, guess what? His employees will also behave like assholes. A leader needs to lead by example with his behavior and decision making to ensure an effective company culture.”

David Mandell, CEO and Co-founder of PivotDesk, sided with Oscar. He explained that he believes in the motto ‘what gets rewarded gets repeated.’ He put it simply: “A leader must act the way in which they would like their company to behave.”

But is it measurable?

Q: How do you measure culture?

Lindsay encouraged companies to examine their success based on the point she made earlier: why do your employees come to work each day? She reiterated that if people are coming to work each day because they enjoy solving problems and challenges within their company, and it’s showing, then the culture is successful.

Justin recounted an unusual phenomenon he had experienced — everyone liked each other…to a fault. While friendships can make work fun, he explained that the team was so close they felt uncomfortable being candid with one another. His staff wasn’t able to communicate criticisms to colleagues when applicable, and he believed his business was suffering as a result. To reverse this behavior, Justin decided to implement a new rule in the company, “If ever a colleague’s name comes up in a meeting, they are immediately brought into that particular meeting. Since implementing this rule, communication, candidness, and therefore culture, amongst the team is stronger than ever.”

Culture near and far

Q: Do you have tips for making sure your company is connected culturally even if they are not in the same geographical office?

Oscar and Lindsay both felt that Slack is a huge advantage to their remote teams. They said it allows them to connect and contribute on issues in real time, creating a sense of belonging for the entire company.

But when it comes to communicating with remote team members, some things are inevitably lost in translation, admitted Lindsay. “Sometimes you hear a silence on the other end of the phone after proposing an idea and you feel insulted assuming that person did not like your ideas. A lot of the time that person was just making tea or momentarily distracted,” she explained. That’s why she pushed their team to opt for video chat over conference calls whenever possible. “Since implementing the new system, communication is exponentially better as we now can actually see each other, and can read body language and facial expressions.”

David explained that for PivotDesk it is extremely important for the whole team to meet in person at least twice a year. PivotDesk flies their remote teams to the PivotDesk HQ in Boulder to allow for personal connections while they all work side by side for a small period of time. Also, David explained, he feels it is important for leadership to be readily available for his entire team, meaning he travels from coast to coast— a lot. He said it is tough, but it is for the good of the team.

Burning the midnight oil

Q: Can you succeed founding a startup and working ‘normal’ hours instead of working around the clock?

Justin’s immediate reaction to this question was, “You can’t succeed working 27/4. It will never work.” He stated that Hinge has a daily standup at 10am every day, allowing the team to connect on pressing issues and have a little face-time. Each employee is expected to be there. Other than the daily standup, people can choose to come in as early as they want— and leave as late as they want. Typically, his team works from around 9:30 until 7:30.

Oscar had a different view on normal hours for a founder: “As a founder, your mind never stops. Even when you try to take a break, your mind always ends up back on your company.” He also pointed out the importance of establishing the proper work life balance and expectations for employees. Just because his mind is always working, and he may send emails late at night, or in the early hours of the morning, Oscar does not feel his employees should be replying then. In fact, he will encourage them to wait until they are working their normal hours to reply. This establishes a baseline of respect for employees’ personal lives, allowing for them to come to work each day fully focused.

PivotDesk doesn’t have ‘hours’ necessarily, mentioned David. He explained that he does not keep track of time spent in the office and quite honestly does not care what hours his employees are working, “Everyone works differently, so their most productive hours may be different. Because of this, we measure employees on milestones, not time spent in the office.” He continued, “This method has worked really well for PivotDesk because it empowers the team to produce their best work when it works for them.”

Have additional questions on company culture? Tweet @PivotDesk using #CCin2016, and we’ll keep the conversation going!

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