Creating an inclusive culture

Creating an Inclusive Culture

This post was written by Kicksaw co-founder Kyle Morris.

In the days when Kicksaw was just getting started, we had no idea it would grow into what it is today. My co-founder Kenny and I fully assumed that Kicksaw would be a lifestyle business without much growth to speak of. As of February of 2021, we’ve got ~30 full time employees, and we expect to double in size (at the very least!) this year.

Doubling the size of any company is difficult, to say the least. At Kicksaw, we have some advantages and some disadvantages, and of course both opportunities and risks.

We have worked hard from the start to attract and retain team members who understand our culture and align with the type of workplace we want to maintain. This gives us an advantage, as we have reached a critical mass of people who drive our culture forward. It’s no longer just about founder-led culture around here.

There are disadvantages we face as well, though. We’re smaller, have fewer resources, we’re 100% remote, most of our employees have never met each other, and we’re spread across several time zones, and countries.

The opportunities we face, though, are immense. We fully believe we’re on track to be the preeminent consulting firm in the SFDC ecosystem. We have tight product/market fit and a clear model to continue to grow our business. 

In order for us to be the preeminent consulting firm in the ecosystem, though, we’ll need more people (a lot more!), and more people who are different. In addition, we’ll need a strong culture to retain and develop those people.

The demographics of our company as it stands now is in many ways diverse, but also homogenous in many ways. We have a significant number of U.S. veterans in the company, many folks who worked in tech previously, others who are self-taught, etc. etc. We are also mostly male, come mostly from similar backgrounds, and we look, talk and think the same way.

To continue our growth, we need more diversity. Diversity of knowledge, diversity of background, and diversity of perspective. 

In every human relationship, there is friction of some sort. It can be overt or at times or subdued, but Kicksaw isn’t immune from this. When it was just Kenny and I, we had our moments of misunderstanding and struggle. Now that we’ve grown, the potential for friction will only increase — it’s inevitable. More people with more perspectives leads to more potential for misalignment and misunderstanding.

We can’t draw hard lines in the sand on how every disagreement or misunderstanding among our employees ought to be resolved. Just like we can’t be the arbiter between consultants and customers or two individual team members. 

We firmly believe that Kicksaw has many informal leaders; it’s one of the things that makes us strong. Having a solid contingent of informal leaders, and a culture that supports them, is what got us to where we are today, and it will remain a necessity for us as we look to maintain growth. Informal leaders are the ones who take charge in a decision vacuum. They’re the ones everyone looks to when things aren’t clear. They’re not recognized enough, and they carry the weight of leadership without a formal title.

Kenny and I have an impact on shaping the culture through the people we choose to bring into the team, the expectations we set, and the standard that we display. We consciously choose to hire veterans and seek candidates with diverse backgrounds and skillsets. We try to offer a salary and benefits that sit at the top of the market, in order to attract top-quality talent. But beyond these measures, our company culture has been out of our hands ever since we brought on that first additional team member. Our culture is not based on who the founders, are but on who we bring into the fold and the unique traits that they bring with them. And today, we’re proud to brag about the kilt-wearers, bee keepers, surfers, hunters, bookworms, and coders who play a part in defining the culture of Kicksaw. 

Looking to the future of our company culture, Kenny and I want to spend our time attempting to 1) set the vision for how we want team members to engage, disagree, and collaborate, and 2) act as an example for others to follow. Beyond that, it’s up to every person on the team to challenge each other to be better, communicate in an open, honest, and fair way, assume the best of the other person, and set a stellar example for others to follow.

I believe that if we have everyone pulling in that direction, and if we intentionally seek others who want to contribute to that culture, the key components that we love about Kicksaw will only continue to improve.