Startups aren’t glamorous. At times they are hard work and a test of mental strength, physical resilience, and require you to invest a lot of time into building them, sustaining them and making them grow.
But what happens to that grit and determination after your business goes big?
According to OFX, an Australian online foreign exchange and payments company, hiring the right people is one way to foster the “startup mentality”.
And it’s for that reason that it asks a rather unconventional interview question: “How do you feel about loading a dishwasher?”
“Over the past 18 years, as the business has grown from a garage-based operation to a listed company, we’ve sought to keep our startup roots and maintain a can-do culture,” says Kirsten Pollard, head of people and culture at OFX.
“Are they able to look beyond traditional hierarchy? Are they down-to-earth? Will they thrive in an agile environment?
“No matter how large we grow, we want to find employees that understand that sometimes, you just have to roll up your sleeves and do the dirty jobs to keep the business moving forward.”
But it doesn’t stop there. After a successful interview, new employees at OFX start with an orange balloon.
“When a new employee arrives on their first day there is a orange balloon on their desk,” says Pollard.
“Sure, a bright orange balloon may seem a bit silly, but there’s a great purpose behind it – it acts a beacon to the broader team, that a new employee has started, and encourages them to say hello.”
According to Pollard the balloon acts as a great ice breaker, eliminating the need for formal introductions and promotes quick, casual interactions.
“Our leadership team takes an active interest in new hires, and the orange balloon dispenses with formal introductions and promotes casual introductions that help a new employee quickly feel comfortable.”
OFX now is an ASX-listed company and has more than 300 employees across its Sydney headquarters and five other global offices. Despite this it is still keen to retain a startup culture, says Pollard.
“We strive to ensure that everyone has a chance to express their ideas, to reach beyond their designated role, and to seize a leadership opportunity where they see room for improvement.
“Of course, as is the case with most businesses, this process isn’t always flawless, but one of OFX’s core values is teamwork and we show that by handing new recruits a high level of trust and responsibility.
“As we have transitioned from startup to a global business, this level of trust between leadership and team members was something we have worked very hard to encourage… Trust lets our business stay agile, adapt to new challenges and face adverse conditions with a sense of unified determination and a results-oriented attitude.
“The reality is that maintaining culture in the transition from a startup to a listed company is difficult. But through continued determination and hard work, OFX has stayed true to its core values. As we’ve grown our team, new employees have brought new skills, and our long-standing employees have helped to maintain the friendly and collaborative atmosphere that has helped us to succeed thus far.
“Equally, in the recruitment phase, the business has intentionally hired employees who will adopt the OFX ethos. It’s all about finding people who are willing to actively contribute to the bettering of broader company culture.
“The transition from a startup company to a listed one is often daunting for businesses. However the lesson is to remember the values that brought you success in the beginning.”
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