Founder Insights: How truRating Finds Success with a Flexible Work Culture

Georgina Nelson, founder of truRating, shares her thoughts on building a flexible working culture.

Georgina Nelson

Although the idea behind truRating is simple—to give every consumer the chance to quickly rate the experiences they have each time they buy a product or service, via the payment terminal—I saw from the beginning that the technology and partnerships required to deliver it would be complicated. With no background myself in technology or payment systems, I knew that delivering the idea was going to require specialists with market leading abilities.

Entering a new market and needing brilliant people left me with the challenge of finding the blend of skills, determination and enthusiasm needed to build a business. To achieve this, I felt certain that we needed to strive for a working culture that supported our ambitions, helped us secure and retain amazing people, and kept them motivated to keep pushing hard towards shared goals. I wanted a culture of warmth, flexibility and transparency.

Achieving this when you’re also conscious of budgets and the pressure to hit milestones isn’t easy by any means, but below are some of the areas in which we continue to work in order to create a successful culture and business while keeping flexibility a priority.

1. Flexibility and company culture. Part of our challenge has been to compete with both the larger companies who attract people with their safe corporate packages, and the startups who attract people with the right sense of adventure and imagination to join a young brand.

Key to doing this in all cases is building enthusiasm for our vision and this opportunity that we truly believe in. It may sound twee, but the team and I genuinely feel we are improving the world for businesses and consumers and that we can have a global impact. Our opportunity must excite anyone that comes into the business, and sustaining this feeling is key to keeping all of us motivated through the pressure points that all fast-growing businesses face at some point.

Supporting this is what I’m told is a really rich share options plan. Financial ambitions don’t tend to be the big driver for our team, but a good options plan definitely cements the idea that we’re all pulling in the same direction and sharing in our success.  

With these elements in place, the next key piece becomes how to maintain a happy, motivated team. With my corporate experiences and those of my friends in mind, when it came to building my own company I wanted to ensure that we treated people right—and to me that means with flexibility and empathy. 

This means our team should balance the important things in life and work, and find time for both. This means some of the team come in early so that they’re always home for bath time, or vice versa; some do the morning school run but pick up more work later in the day. For others, it’s missing rush hours to improve their commute or to get their marathon training in.

We don’t have fixed policies on this. Everyone is trusted to do their job and deliver results. People are happy because they can be there for life’s most important moments: first steps, school concerts, the big game. I certainly want this for my own little girl. 

We think this approach has attracted a set of people who are there for us and share the philosophy of the business. These people have exceptional experience, are not afraid to roll their sleeves up and get messy, and go the extra mile when it’s of benefit to us all.

2. Flexibility and company growth. For us, our ambition to create a global brand meant we needed to start early on the journey of expansion to achieve genuine first-mover advantage.

Our first markets were Australia, Canada and North America, and this is where flexibility has really helped us to find ways of working around time zones in a practical way. If people need to be on a call with Australia late at night, they will start a little later that day or the following morning. It’s accepted because we all do it - there isn’t one rule for one type of role and a different one for another.

It doesn’t matter what time of day we open our laptops, so long as we are all working towards the same goal.

There’s no doubt that communications technology plays a key role, but with an open mind to flexibility, collaboration is far easier to achieve. I think a good test is whether the people who are not based in London feel supported and in-tune with our culture—something that we take very seriously, and are always looking for ways to improve upon.

3. Flexibility and communication. It’s vital to ensure everyone in the company knows what is going on, both on a daily basis and big picture-wise. When you get to a certain size, it becomes impossible to keep everyone on the same page without systems in place—particularly in a flexible working environment. As a growing business doing totally new things, it’s incredibly important that we’re learning from each other and refining the way we operate.

Formal internal communications have been a vital part of keeping a successful flow of information, galvanizing a sense of team spirit and brand, and above all, maintaining our flexibility.

We’ve branded all of the internal communications. For example, truAchievements is a weekly get together where we share all the great things the various national teams have accomplished. We then use truTimes to round up big industry news, and recently, we introduced truPulse—a team check-in every Friday to see how we’re matching up to our monthly targets. We also now share all of our investor/board reporting with the team so there’s transparency into how we’re tracking business and what impact our efforts are having.

We’re always open to new suggestions from the team on how to share our achievements and objectives so that everyone feels in the loop—no matter where they are working from or what hours they work. We’ve found a commitment to flexibility and communications early on helps to ensure that founders don’t lose touch with what’s happening in their startup, that their brand stays strong, and that their people stay loyal and motivated. 

Does your startup have a flexible work environment? What do you do to ensure a happy team? Share your thoughts in the comments, or tweet @truRating and @MSAccel!