We did not hire for culture | Adrian France | #FuckupNights Bali


she was a 21 year old student at Indiana
University when she co-founded a company of unique print publications tonight we
are going to learn how a fuckup led her to her and her co-founder to nearly
destroy her business please give it up for Adrienne well first what is your
problem okay first I just want to give a shout out to the events amazing events
organizers of this evening and close friends Vito
cash and Leo and when they asked me to speak I was like oh it’s September 21st
and my birthday is tomorrow so what better way to kick off celebrations then
tell a roomful of strangers one of your biggest failures in life like that’s
exactly so we’re gonna oh my phones don’t work so surprised it’s okay oh
okay okay now we can talk now okay so I’m gonna tell you about how one likes
small mistake literally almost cost me my company um so how it all began
I’m from Indiana and we went to Indiana University and I make a joke here a lot
about how I treated corn fields for rice fields um so I was there I was studying
journalism in marketing and met my co-founder Evan and Evan and I were both
in Greek life and fraternity and sorties and we saw that no one was really
talking about the things that were going in our community things that we cared
about so we decided you know why don’t we start a print publication that’s a
great idea literally the same week that we decide
this the headlines of New York Times Boston Globe Chicago Tribune is Thank
You Mickey I’m about to eat this microphone it said do not start print
publications print is dying we’re cutting pages were firing staff but
Adrian go ahead and start a paper that’s a really great
yeah um so we did within the very first week it took off like wildfire we had
campuses from neighboring universities that were asking how they could start to
Odyssey at their campus and we had by the time that we were ready to graduate
we had four publications at for universities and these were all unique
16 page full-color papers so we’re sitting there in my kitchen table trying
to figure out you know we’re about to graduate are we going to stick with this
or get real jobs because that’s what our parents want us to do and we’re like
yeah we’re just gonna do this cuz that sounds like a better idea
so we graduate four days later we moved to Indianapolis and we move into our new
office and we are so excited because what would you expect in a tech space in
a brand new office come on this is volunteer participation thank
you ping pong and like sweet chairs and like fireball a bar and like nice
glasses like just like oh just so swanky right nope we moved into a bagel factory
an actual working bagel factory a hundred feet from my desk was a hot tub
size of honey it regularly smelled like apple cinnamon bagels fell off the truck
we were often the taste testers for the factory it was kind of wild but we loved
it we loved that it was scrappy we loved that the it we didn’t have air
conditioning one summer it was 95 degrees um and we were just following
something that we left and like Chavez saying like we working 18 hours a day
just like hustling and we’re hiring more people and we’re getting to you’re so
want to fast for the year for because once we graduated we had four
publications then we had 18 then 27 and then your
four were at 33 publications that are completely unique printing every single
week during the year we have more than 500 people around these campuses writing
things that they’re passionate about and then we have 15 employees we’re starting
to get major attraction in our community in the
we are having stacks and stacks of papers not the kind of paper that I
wanted at the time but papers and then um we closed our we closed our first
six-figure client and we’re just like killing it obviously you know America
there’s fireball on that bus by the way um and just having like the greatest
time where let me what we’re doing we’re loving people we working with so it’s
about this time that you would cue the fuck up right so we had this thing that
Chris you’re gonna really appreciate this we had this thing that we were
taught in school get the 4.0 have the best internships get the best
experiences land the best job and so he took that same principle that we were
taught and use that for our hiring set so we only hired people that had the
four O’s that came from the best universities that were 10 years older
than us and had all this experience in the company and we started to see this
shift where they’re the culture started to get really odd we were having to
really fight with people to get basic essentials done there was water cooler
talk there was even secret lunches to talk about Evan and I okay so it got to
the point that Evan and I didn’t even want to come into work anymore
think about this I’ve worked for we’ve worked for four years blood sweat and
tears type of MBA you’ve worked 80 90 100 hundred twenty
hour weeks you’re taking no pay and you can’t even like fathom coming into work
anymore that week we went from 15 employees to five ten people were hired
or quit and we’re in the middle of our production season so the remaining we
had four people on the executive team and a lovely designer that was still
with us today but we had the four people we literally locked herself in a room
and we were trying to figure out what the hell happens we followed all the
basic structure of business we hired these smart people and what we came to
figure out it was the culture we did not hire for culture we hired only four
skills so this was our fault as much as I would
like to blame the other people there it was our fault we were the leaders of the
company we did not identify we didn’t leave so we spent the remaining of the
weekend essentially locked in this room to
figure out a way that we can make build a tangible culture something that was
institutional something that we can continue so we came up with a list of
values and principles and actually put together an odyssey code of culture and
it was a six foot tall four foot wide board that sat in office and maintained
things like work on yourself always loose lips sink ships make the clients
is our priority the you know your work together as a team like things that are
basic principles but that we had just forgotten and that dictated everything
for the future from hiring to firing – whether we took on a project and we
didn’t only just do that institutionally like inside our full-timers but I was
still we were finding ways to bring that culture to the Cretors and to her sales
team on all these campuses so it was even writing notes on a weekly basis to
our team to remind them of the mission to tell them how excited we were about
their success and to keep it going and so we started to really see some
progress and one really big moment for us that we saw that really meant a lot
to us was that we raised some money which is always nice and business
especially when you’re eating a lot of PBJs so we raised 2.4 million in
convertible debt which means that we didn’t lose equity but we had some
things to cap it ourselves and we also got some move out of the big old Factory
and get the sweet swanky tech office which was nice and we started to
continue to focus though on the culture we had this money so we ended up opening
an office in New York we started hiring a ton of people to help further the
business because at this point we had only done prints and we were making that
shift to being an online platform as well because we wanted to service more
communities and more people the opportunity to share
their voice and things that they were passionate about so for this small print
but if you don’t have your glasses on and we had an employee that nicknamed
our culture squad ax C and it started to be prevalent everywhere we started doing
morning cycle riots we did retreats we were going out for dinner and drinks on
a frequent basis we were hiring this team of interns that was all based off
this and our intern for crying when they found out they got the internship we had
really established this culture of that we were fun we all enjoyed working
together but we were still making progress we’re still hitting our
deadlines were still hitting our numbers so it wasn’t an either/or situation so
now we get to like fast for two years later to April 2016 and we have bouts
we’ve masks we’ve like focused solely on the platform and we have hit 30 million
uniques which is a lot if you don’t know those things and it was all done
organically we did zero paid promotion of content and we had 30 million uniques
in less than two years we had more than 14 thousand creators creating content on
a weekly basis that averaged 40,000 pieces of content we had more than a
hundred employees and we were having a great time and we were starting to work
with clients that I could only dream of working with fortune 100 fortune 500
Victoria’s Secret pink Starbucks although we did not get free Starbucks
and we’re also being notarized in the community and in the industry as thought
leaders as people that are pushing not only good business but good culture
at the same time and this was all done in less than two years which is pretty
insane while we were launching the platform so so much progress and we were
like we really needed something to cap it off we wanted something to work for
and then this is supposed to be bigger o be praised
we raised 25 million dollars in venture capital funding 25 million dollars so
you can see we celebrated a little bit it was
very exciting to get some money it’s you like kind of really like verify and a
credibility of what it is but even more so what was exciting is that our lead
investor which is known in the industry has had two and a half billion in exits
wrote a LinkedIn post about us when he invested and he said two things that
really stuck with me one is that it was the most exciting company that he had
seen her since investing in BuzzFeed which that really sets the table high
right but then more importantly that Odysseys business is strong but it’s the
people that drew him to the business so really solidified that focusing on that
culture really made a difference on our bottom line and just our overall
happiness so I know there’s a lot of digital nomads in the group tonight so
I’m not a lot of you are having larger companies where you’re part of one but
at the end of the day it doesn’t matter because – we’ll have to make culture a
priority and to really trust our gut instinct I don’t care if you’re hiring a
freelancer having a contractor you’re a contractor or you’re working in a
company of 10,000 you have to trust your instinct because at the end of the day
culture is king thank you




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