How Prospa approaches company culture

- September 26, 2018 4 MIN READ

Every company has its own culture. What makes Prospa’s unique is that we are driven by challenging the way the finance system works: over 200 passionate people come together daily to find better ways of keeping small businesses moving.

We have a strong set of values and we amplify these at every opportunity. Passion, energy and fun drive our culture, and combined with intelligence and curiosity deliver continual growth, making our team a force to be reckoned with. Even among the often challenging and fast paced nature of the finance market.

How we’re different

Many companies pay lip service to working together or working collaboratively. Glenn Butcher, our acting Head of People & Culture, says, “Prospa has a genuine feeling of striving together, and Prospa’s best moments are when different people, from tech to operations, work collaboratively to build great things.”

When the going gets tough

A company’s culture can also help during difficult moments. In every business, challenges can co-exist with the triumphs. It’s our actions in the face of adversity that are the most telling.

This is when you see team culture at its best. We had a tough moment this year when we had to postpone our IPO. The strength of our culture drew everyone together and we came through that difficult moment in an even stronger place.

And it’s not just the leadership team – culture is how a whole company makes decisions when no one is watching. For example, every day our product and engineering teams need to make many decisions about what experience to give their customers. The sum of those decisions is as big as any public difficult decision.

I can genuinely say the Prospa team know how to deliver under pressure. Perhaps because so many of us were once were small business owners, we’re resilient, resourceful and prepared to put in the hard work to achieve our goals. We’re stronger as a team because of the challenges we’ve faced together. There’s a genuine feeling of striving towards a common purpose.

Strong leadership catalysing success

Greg [Moshal, cofounder and joint CEO] and I believe a strong culture has to be leader-led but decentralised. This means everyone on the leadership team must live the values and behaviours that develop culture but have freedom to do it in a manner that works for their teams. We also have a People Experience team and cultural ambassadors who work closely with our leaders to develop plans that build broader participation in cultural initiatives.

Glenn and his People Experience team are committed to seeing employees flourish both as individuals and as teams. Glenn has acknowledged, “Culture isn’t words on a wall or a speech from the CEO. We are our best selves at work when we all experience and live a great culture. In a sense, our employees are our culture.”

How our team builds the culture

Along with our overall commitment to continuous  learning, I’m especially proud of a couple of Prospa initiatives and their impact on people and culture as a whole. We train our staff to be leaders, to think with agility in delivering value to our customers, and grow with us.

We understand the importance of our employees’ personal networks and highly value their connections. We’ve focused a lot on building a strong EVP and ensuring it’s communicated broadly. Key to this is activating our team’s networks as nothing beats an internal referral.

Building a strong culture at Prospa is an ongoing process which is constantly being refined.

From the beginning we have invited feedback from employees, running internal surveys on a monthly basis to understand what success looks like when it comes to specific components of our work environment. We have regular formal updates, plus team and company social events like family picnics, table tennis competitions and monthly ‘get down’ events where each team takes their turn as host. For example, last month our marketing team hosted an R&B evening with a DJ, soul food, and prizes for the best dressed.

The initiative I’m most proud of is our cultural interview process. This was a little controversial when we first implemented it but the idea was simple: we wanted to build a stronger culture with new people adding to the culture rather than changing it.

Sometimes hiring managers overlook cultural fit because of skills. We had hired a couple of people who just didn’t fit and quickly left, which wasn’t a good outcome for us or them. So for the last two years all final candidates go through a cultural interview with two of our cultural ambassadors, who not involved in the hiring team. They have veto over any candidate that isn’t a strong cultural fit and we’ve systemised the criteria to make it as objective as possible. It’s an amazing experience and shows new starters how seriously we take culture.

Glenn says, “We attract those that want to make a difference to an industry viewed as traditional and stodgy. We retain them because they see they can genuinely make a difference.”

What’s next?

With this incredibly strong team and culture, we have the world at our feet. So, what’s next? Two major initiatives are currently underway: Prospa will be launching into New Zealand, spreading our Australian-made wings across the Tasman Sea, and we will launching new products to market. Both of these require out-of-the-box thinking and the team are excited about this future.

Beau Bertoli is cofounder & joint CEO at Prospa

Image: Beau Bertoli.