SurveyMonkey was started by brothers Ryan and Chris Finely as a 12 person Silicon Valley startup in 1999. Their mission “is to power curious individuals and organizations to measure, benchmark and act on the opinions that drive success”. They do this, well…by creating surveys!
Over the past 20 years, SurveyMonkey has grown to acquire several companies including TechValidate, Usabilla and Zoomerang. It was named to Forbes’ Unicorn list of startup companies in 2015 and was 13th on Forbes’ Cloud list in 2018.
Last week, some fellow TKS Innovators and I got the opportunity to tour the SurveyMonkey Ottawa Office with Talent Acquisition Specialist Andrew Hind. Here are three biggest things he shared with us:
The majority of ineffective business decisions stem from scaling at the wrong speed or at the wrong time.
A lot of the mistakes businesses make when they are trying to expand is scaling either too fast or too early (and sometimes, too late). Whether it’s trying to increase the number of employees, open a new office or advertize to a new demographic, most companies will scale up in order to offer more of their product or service to a wider range of people.
Sometimes, the market is just not ready to support the increased amount of products a business is trying to make available be it because it has yet to catch on in the mainstream, it’s targeted at the wrong audience or much more.
Scaling up generally incurs more expenses, which can only be relieved if the company makes more sales. So scaling up in an untimely fashion can be detrimental to a company’s progress and sacrifices the gains that the company could make when it is prepared for this opportunity.
In addition to economic harm, scaling up can also provoke current employees to be undervalued if the work they initially do is spread across their counterparts in different offices in an effort to justify their positions. Now we’d have a strategy which aimed to bring in more talent dissuading the talent we already have, which needless to say is not good for employee retention.
Employees must feel valued as individuals beyond the context of their work, but this should not distract them from fulfilling their role within the company.
We often hear of the most successful companies having some of the most interesting work spaces. Whether they’re riddled with full blown play structures, kegs, gyms, napping spaces or ponds — these spaces aim to make employees feel as though their needs beyond the premise of their immediate work are valued by their employer (including their need to desperately want to play on a swing set in the middle of the day). And while these things do help define a positive work culture, it’s a slippery slope between promoting work-life balance, and distraction.
SurveyMonkey’s Ottawa office has vibrantly painted walls, engaging meeting spaces and banana name tags at each employee’s desk :). It has a games room, and a gym that runs yoga classes every Friday at 2. They provide breakfast to their employees 4 out of 5 days a week and even have a book club. All these things reflect the SurveyMonkey culture — they value the health and well being of their employees beyond the time they spend at work, but nothing they offer is gimmicky or so over the top that it inspires distraction. Everything is communal and done with intention — just like them.
More man power does not necessarily equal more. It depends on how you use your space and your budget to promote productivity.
In comparison to many companies, SurveyMonkey is tiny in terms of their employee numbers. However, they still manage to accumulate annual revenue comparable to that of companies many times their size! This just goes to show that the size of a company does not necessarily correlate to how successful it is.
In fact, sometimes smaller companies are more effective because they are small, and thus they incur fewer expenses. This just means that each employee that they do have needs to be all the more productive. The SurveyMonkey Ottawa office is designed to promote just that. Through the addition of smaller meeting rooms and clever sound engineering, though there are about 200 employees working there on an average day, the office space feels comfortably populated.
- The majority of ineffective business decisions stem from scaling at the wrong speed or at the wrong time.
- Employees must feel valued as individuals beyond the context of their work, but this should not distract them from fulfilling their role within the company.
- More man power does not necessarily equal more. It depends on how you use your space and your budget to promote productivity.