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The HubSpot Culture Code

Creating a Company We Love


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Why do we obsess over culture?

Culture doesn't just help attract amazing people, it amplifies their abilities and helps them do their best work.

 

What's Culture?

A set of shared beliefs, values, and practices. 

HubSpot's Culture Code is the operating system that powers the company.

 

Culture is to recruiting as product is to marketing.

Customers are more easily attracted with a great product
Talented people are more easily attracted withgreat culture

Culture happens.

Whether planned or not, all companies have a culture.
So why not create a culture we love?

3

People have dramatically changed how they live and work.


THEN
NOW



FocusPensionPurpose
NeedGood BossGreat Colleagues
Hours9 to 5Whenever
WorkplaceOfficeWherever
TenureWhole CareerWhatever


But although people have dramatically changed ...

Too many organizations operate as if they're frozen in time.

This document is part manifesto and part employee handbook.

It's part who we are and part who we aspire to be.

 

The HubSpot Culture Code

 

1. We commit maniacally to both our mission and metrics.

We love small and medium-sized businesses. Especially those that want to do better.
Our mission is to help these organizations grow. We want to transform how they attract, engage and delight their customers.

We're working to help the world go inbound. To take a more empathetic, human-friendly approach to marketing and sales. (Turns out, it's also more effective.)

We believe: Success is making those believed in you look brilliant.

Our commitment to our mission will help us earn the love of many.
Our commitment to our metrics will help us earn the resources to further our mission.
We are passionate about both.

This dual personality of mission & metrics is uncommon. 
It's partly what makes us different (and also kind of quirky, in mostly good ways.)

 

"Pursue something so important that even if you fail, the world is better off with you having tried."
- Tim O'Reilly

Note: The O'Reilly conference room at HubSpot is named after Tim!

 

2. We look to the long-term and solve for the customer.

STFC. Solve for the customer.
We don't want to satisfy them, we want to delight them.
Our goal is to help them succeed

For every decision, we should ask ourselves: "Selves, what's in it for the customer?"

Wait. Does "Solve for the customer" mean just giving more away for free? Wouldn't that delight customers?

No. To delight customers in the long-term, we have to survive in the short-term.

 Bankrupt companies don't delight their customers. 

HubSpot has a professional sales team.
How do we ensure we SFTC?
How do we know if we're doing it right?

We're on the right path as long as we sell to customers that we expect to delight.

 

3. We share openly and are remarkably transparent.

We share (almost) everything. We make uncommon levels of information available to everyone in the company (all 1500+ of us, and counting).

We have the most active wiki on the planet.* 

Examples of things we share and discuss:
Financials (cash balance, burn-rate, P&L, etc.)
Board meeting deck
Management meeting deck
"Strategic" topics
HubSpot Lore & Mythology (the funniest page on the wiki)

*Unverified claim

We protect information only when:
It is legally required.
Example: Information covered under a Non-Disclosure Agreement (NDA)
It is not completely ours to share.
Example: Individual compensation data.

 

Wait. Isn't HubSpot publicly traded?

Yes. We had our IPO in Oct 2014 [NYSE:HUBS].


Usually, publicly traded companies can only share detailed information with a select group of "insiders"


This didn't fit well with our culture. So ...

1

We officially made every employee at HubSpot a designated insider.

Power is gained by sharing knowledge, not hoarding it. 
Everyone has open access to anyone in the company.

It's not an open door policy.
It's a no door policy.

Nobody has a corner office.

Not because we work in circular buildings, but because nobody has an office. 

Transparency â‰  Democracy
Transparency is about being open, not making decisions by consensus.
We each have a voice, but not always a vote.

All this transparency doesn't matter unless we do something with it.

 

4. We favor autonomy and take ownership.

Just because someone made a mistake years ago doesn't mean we need a policy or rule.

We don't penalize the many for the mistakes of the few.
We only protect against big stuff.

We don't have pages of policies and procedures.
Instead, we have a 3-word policy on just about everything:

Use Good Judgment.

Social media policy.
Travel policy.
Sick day policy.
Buy a round of drinks at an event policy.
Work from home during a blizzard policy.

Our policy on all of these (and most other) things:
Use good judgment.

Here's the cheat sheet on good judgment:

Customer > team > individual

Team > individual
Don't solve your personal interests to the detriment of the team.
We loathe selfishness and love teamishness.

Customer > company
When in doubt, favor solving for the customers' interest over our own. Solving for customers' interest is in our long-term interest too.

1

The thing that matters most: Results

Results matter more than the number of hours we work.
Results matter more than where we produce them.
Results matter more than how much vacation we take.
(we have unlimited vacation)

Our best results come when our decisions are insight-driven and data-powered.

We love data.

Debates should be won with better data not bigger job titles.
We disfavor pulling rank. It happens sometimes, but we don't like it.

smart, self-motivated people + clear, compelling vision = sustainable, scalable growth

To support transparency and trust, we have to be thoughtful about who we hire. It's also important because ...

1

5. We believe our best perk is amazing people.

Disclosure: HubSpot is not a utopian workplace.

We are not a perfect fit for everyone. And not every amazing person is a great fit for us.

What makes someone a great fit for HubSpot?
What makes this the place they belong?
What does it mean to be HubSpotty?

1

There are 5 attributes that we value in people.

 
1

Humble

 

 

Self-aware and respectful.

Wait. Doesn't being humble mean lacking confidence?
No. The very best people are self-aware and self-critical - not arrogant.

"Humility is not thinking less of yourself; it is thinking of yourself less." - C.S. Lewis.

When things go well, humble people tend to share the credit.
When things go poorly, they tend to shoulder the responsibility.


 
2

Empathetic

 

 

Goes beyond understanding another person's perspective.
Acts with compassion and respect for customers, partners, and colleagues. 

 
3

Adaptable

 


Innately curious and constantly changing.
Life-long learner.

 
4

Remark-able

1


Worthy of being remarked upon*

Stands out by being:
Remarkably helpful.
Remarkably resourceful.
Remarkably effective.

*h/t to Seth Godin

Effective people: are predisposed to action.
They just do things.
Have a sense of ownership.
Are resourceful and always looking for leverage.

 
5

Transparent

 

Open and honest with others and with themselves.

Wait. Aren't some people just private?
This is not able sharing personal information.
(What happened in Vegas should stay in Vegas)

This is about sharing knowledge generously.

 
Add Value

We like people with heart.

humble
empathetic
adaptable
remarkable
transparent

Yes, "heart" is a bit cheesy. We're a bit cheesy sometimes. 

We don't just believe in these values, we bet on them.
We recruit, reward and release people based on these values.

 

Example:

The J.E.D.I. Award
Awarded to those that just quietly and selflessly do the right thing and move us forward.

(J.E.D.I. stands for "Just Effing Does It")

 

Compromising on culture fit is mortgaging the future.

It's reasonable to want to hire for skills and experience when the need is painfully acute.

It's reasonable. But, it's also wrong.

The interest rate on culture debt is crushingly high.


"We're a team, not a family. We hire, develop and cut smartly so we have stars in every position." - Netflix

+1 We couldn't have said it better ourselves, so we didn't.

 

We have a no asses rule.

(Truth: We try hard not to hire them. But, they temporarily sneak in sometimes.)

 

Don't just hire to delegate.

It's tempting to bring people in that you can push off work you don't have time for. 

Hire to elevate.

Bring people in that can teach us something.
Continually seek to raise our average.

Culture is not set in stone.

Our best people don't just fit our culture, they further it. 
Our core values stay constant, but we constantly iterate the code.

 

With great people comes great responsibility.

We want to be as proud of the people we grow as we are of the company we grow.

We believe in investing to increase individual mastery and market value.

 

There are two ways to progress at HubSpot.

 

1. Gain mastery as an individual contributor and make magic.

 

 

2. Provide spectacular support to those who are doing #1.

Confession: We have a lot of first-time managers at HubSpot. We're working hard to develop them.

 
Add Date

How do you achieve mastery?

To achieve mastery you must dive deep.


Talent is not enough.


Master requires intense commitment.

 

We're doing a few things to help you learn ...

 
1

HubTalks:
Learning from Leaders

 

These are private talks given at HubSpot.

Clay Christensen
Eric Ries
Patty McCord
Deval Patrick


"Innovator's Dilemma"


"The Lean Startup"

Former Chief People Officer, Netflix

Former Governor, Massachusetts
 
2

Unlimited Free Books Program

 

 Request a book - it magically shows up in your Amazon Kindle account.

No muss, no fuss.
No expense sheets.

 
3

Unlimited Free Meals Program

 

 Take someone smart out for a meal.
Learn something.

Expense it.
No approval needed.

Use good judgment.

 
Add Value

But the most important thing to provide is big challenges.

Amazing people don't like average goals.

 

6. We dare to be different and question the status quo.

Why do we care so much about being different?

Many companies start out being exceptional.
As they grow, there is a dark, powerful force that pulls them towards the average.

Remarkable outcomes are rarely the product of modest risk.

We encourage experimentation.
Better to try and sometimes fail than to sit tight and ... fail for sure.

We don't mind making mistakes, we do mind repeating them.
Each mistake carries a lesson, we try to make sure we learn it.

 

Speaking of being different ...

To think different we need to be different.
We cannot be all the same.
We want a diversity of backgrounds and beliefs.

Confession: We want diversity, but do not yet have it. Still work to do.

One of the most important ways we try to be different:

Think simple.

Conventional wisdom suggests more is better. More bells, more whistles. 
We believe simplicity is a competitive advantage.

1

Things usually start simple ...

Complexity quietly creeps in.

Its toll lies below the surface.

Why does complexity creep in?
It is often the quick, seductive answer to short-time issues.
Fighting for simplicity and looking to the long-term takes courage and commitment. 

You cannot add simplicity in.
You must take complexity out

1

Like software ...

Organizations should be frequently refactored
Refactoring means to improve internal structure without changing external behavior. 

Refactor.

Stop generating unused reports.
Cancel unproductive meetings.
Remove unnecessary rules.
Automate manual processes.
Prune extraneous process.

(A handy acronym to remember these: SCRAP)

Fight for simplicity.

We want HubSpot to be:
Easy to buy.
Easy to use.
Easy to love.

 

7. We recognize that life is short.

Life is short. So it should be fulfilling and fun.
Work is a big part of life.
So work should also be fulfilling and fun.

1

It's important to take care of yourself.

Healthy @ HubSpot initiative:
Standing
desks
Healthy snacks
Fitness room
Spontaneous laughter

1

We encourage candor and criticism. It helps us grow.

But remember, life is short. 
Always be kind and compassionate.

Life is short. And full of tough choices.
Always take the high road.
The view is better and it's much less crowded.

 

So, to recap ...

The HubSpot Culture Code


1. Mission and metrics
2. Solve for the customer
3. Be transparent
4. Take ownership

5. People > Perks

6. Dare to be different
7. Life is short, make it matter

Onward and upward ...

Whether you were delighted or displeased, all feedback is appreciated:

culturecode@hubspot.com

@dharmesh (one of our founders) reads every email.

 

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