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    Here’s How We Created a Thriving Culture of Trust and Collaboration at Membrain

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    I recently returned from Barcelona, where we flew our mighty little team of not-quite-30 people to celebrate ten years in business. We spent most of a week workshopping, celebrating, sightseeing, eating (and drinking) together, and exchanging frequent hugs and happy smiles.

    I think we’re all feeling warm and connected after that.

    The trip has me thinking about how we got here. Specifically, about how we created the culture that led to ten years in business, a growing company, and the warmth and collegial feelings we share with each other across teams and throughout our organization.

    Though a trip to Barcelona is certainly fun and something to celebrate, building and maintaining a culture of trust and collaboration takes much more than plane tickets and delicious shared meals.

    Here are the six key things we’ve done at Membrain to create a thriving culture of trust and collaboration.

    1. We Rejected Venture Capital
      Popular articles about company culture rarely mention this point, because they are so often written for people who would love to have some of that cash that VC firms dangle in front of growing small companies.

      But at Membrain, our business was never about spreadsheets, rapid growth and a quick “exit.”

      We wanted to build something that would have a positive impact on the world, and that would support our employees and partners at every step of the way.

      Too often, VC firms throw money at a start-up company like ours, and suddenly what was a mission-driven organization becomes an Excel-driven organization focused on rapid growth at all costs. Many VCs operate on the mentality that if they can get one home run out of ten or twenty start-ups, then they’ll have succeeded.

      It doesn’t trouble them at all when they drive the other nineteen companies out of business by overworking the teams.

      Without much operational stake, these VCs push hard and create sink-or-swim cultures that are hard on employees and don’t support long-term, sustainable growth.

      At Membrain, we are self-funded. This means we’ve grown more slowly than some other start-ups that founded around the same time we did. But it also means that we’ve maintained control over our mission and vision. It means we can afford to be mindful and deliberate in how we create our company culture and the decisions we make.

      In short, this one fact has been foundational for all the rest.
    2. We are Mission-Driven
      I didn’t found this company because I wanted to build something fast and sell it for major profit. I started it to make a difference and build a sustainable, profitable company with a respected global brand.

      At Membrain, our mission is to elevate the sales profession. For me, this means helping sales professionals expand their idea of who they can be, and help them feel a sense of pride and accomplishment in everything they can do.

      We do that through the product we offer and the partnerships we form.

      As the company has grown, it has been important to everyone on the leadership team that we help our employees also feel a sense of pride in who we are and what we can do. Our mission helps our team understand the impact they can have on something bigger than any one of us and bigger than just making a profit for the company.
    3. We Build the Culture Intentionally
      Many companies leave their culture to chance, and rarely get what they hope for from it. At Membrain, we have been intentional in focusing on our internal culture from the very beginning. This shows up as:

      - Core values that we live and breathe
      - Open doors at every level of the company, and willingness to listen and incorporate ideas from any employee at any time
      - Hiring a head of people growth whose mission is to make this a great place to work

      Nina, our head of people growth, is hard at work every week coming up with new ideas and implementing them to ensure our culture grows with the company, and that every single one of our people has everything they need to thrive.
    4. We Have Fun Together
      Teams that play together also work better together. At Membrain, we incorporate play into our daily lives, as well as into our monthly, quarterly, annual, and special events structure.

      Daily huddles give us a chance to connect with each other and share stories and updates. A pets channel on Slack lets us share stories and photos of our furry family members. Monthly team meetings usually include a team game at the end. And our ten-year anniversary included sightseeing, meal sharing, and tons of between-activity fun.

      Many of the playful activities we incorporate into our workday are driven by employees. The pets channel came out of a daily huddle in which someone’s dog made a star appearance, and we all agreed we’d like to know more about each other’s four-legged companions. The monthly Kahoot! game is led by different employees and covers varying topics.

      All this play sounds pretty alien to some companies focused exclusively on results, but research shows that teams that trust each other and like each other work better together. And nothing builds trust and appreciation like having fun together!
    5. We Invest in Individual Growth
      Every company invests in its own growth. But at Membrain, we believe the growth of our individual team members is every bit as important as the growth of the company.

      We offer employees an individual growth budget, that they can spend on books, training, education, and other things that contribute to their professional growth. We also provide a “think big” day on a regular basis for employees to work on projects and ideas of their own choice. We offer a lot of autonomy in terms of how work is done, and are constantly listening to employees to develop and support processes and ideas that help us and them to grow.

      We recently implemented a 90-day goal structure for the company leadership that helps us focus on specific initiatives we want to make progress on. Research shows that 90 days is the longest that most humans can stay focused on a single goal. So we harnessed that piece of information to begin structuring the work so that everyone in the company can set and achieve goals for themselves within a framework that honors the way the human mind works.

      All of this combines to support the individual growth of each of our employees within the company, both personally and professionally.
    6. We Take Family Seriously
      Most companies will tell you that they are “family-oriented.” This is code for “We want you on our team so we’ll pretend we care about your family while we follow only the bare minimum of all applicable laws regarding life/work balance.”

      At Membrain, we take family and personal life more seriously than that. We offer all employees at least five weeks of paid vacation annually, and four of those are mandatory. Rest and family time are critically important to human health and to employee performance, so we didn’t skimp on this.

      We also offer paid parental leave when you have a newborn. And we offer flexible work arrangements that enable you to take the time you need to get kids to appointments, take care of your loved ones’ needs, and generally manage your life while you’re managing your work.

    What It’s Like to Work at Membrain

    If you want to know what it’s really like to work at Membrain, the best person to ask is any of our employees.

    “The culture at Membrain is remarkably healthy,” Ryan Chartrau

    “There’s so much energy within Membrain,” Johanna Van Doorn

    “We trust that we’ve got each other’s backs,” Nina Werner

    “The culture here is warm, ambitious, with a rebellious streak,” Henrik Öuist

    We’re proud of the culture we’ve built at Membrain, and the growth it has supported over the past ten years. As we continue to expand into the future, we intend to build on this culture by listening to our employees and continuing to implement structures and frameworks that enable our employees to be and feel their best.

    If you’d like to know more about Membrain or think you’d like to join our team, check out our careers page here.

    George Brontén
    Published November 23, 2022
    By George Brontén

    George is the founder & CEO of Membrain, the Sales Enablement CRM that makes it easy to execute your sales strategy. A life-long entrepreneur with 20 years of experience in the software space and a passion for sales and marketing. With the life motto "Don't settle for mainstream", he is always looking for new ways to achieve improved business results using innovative software, skills, and processes. George is also the author of the book Stop Killing Deals and the host of the Stop Killing Deals webinar and podcast series.

    Find out more about George Brontén on LinkedIn