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Starting and growing a team in a new city

Onboarding
Sharing the vision
Scaling Team
Remote

16 April, 2018

At two separate organizations, David started a team in a new city, growing it from just himself to several team members while maintaining the core culture of the main office, and keeping the city connected to the “mother ship.”

Problem

When you have a "mothership" that's looking to expand to another city, it can be unsettling to wonder how this new office can be created and maintained in a healthy way, honoring the culture of the first office. If there isn't alignment, there's a risk that the new office could fail.

Actions taken

At two separate companies based on NYC, I've had the opportunity to work for the company but have not been willing to relocate from Silicon Valley. In each situation, I started a new office in California, first with just myself, but then hiring more and more people over time. I've had to ensure that I visited the main office quarterly to stay in sync with the true office culture, and it's been necessary to have explicit conversations about the company culture, making known what's obvious but not discussed (good and bad) of the company culture. The goal is to embody the "goods" in the new office as you hire and, hopefully, avoid but openly communicate the reality of the bad. Through this process, it's inevitable that a "microculture" will be created for the new office. As long as you have virtual company meetings, ideally on a weekly basis, as we have, you'll find that the broader culture can be seen, appreciated, and, hopefully emulated. One of the great risks, which I've seen happen a few times, is that if there's not enough connection between individuals at a given office, they will "flip the bozo bit" for someone in the other office, resulting in non-constructive conversations, wasted time, and other problems. When this occurs, it's important to have a transparent, explicit conversation about the elephant in the room and not let the "echo chamber" effect in the smaller office occur.

Lessons learned

Explicitly define your existing culture with existing leadership, define the goals of the new office, create virtual company meetings to maintain the connection between offices, and ensure that any meetings and processes that need both offices involved have them involved. Be sensitive to "echo chambers" of subjective realities, and encourage people with issues to communicate openly and tactfully with one-another any issues that come up.


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