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How Our Startup Launched a New Office and Scaled Culture
Today is Percolate’s 1,889th day. Not only has our product, staff, and client list grown, but our physical presence has, too. We now have offices in six cities. And as we’ve expanded, we’ve recognized that scaling a company across multiple locations poses cultural and operational challenges. Difficulties can arise from communication gaps, or when decisions that don’t ladder up to your overall vision are made without necessary conversations happening.
As a growing brand, every big move means you risk losing sight of your core purpose as an organization. But you can mitigate that risk by keeping a strong sense of culture front and center. Think of culture as the glue that binds people together, motivating them not to lose sight of that purpose. Culture manifests itself in the physical appearance of your office, the people you hire, and the way those people interact with each other. So our objective when we set out to open Percolate San Francisco was to transport that culture from New York, down to the last detail.
Building culture falls to everyone, but our marketing team took the lead to lay the foundations for it. The challenge was to launch the office — physically and digitally — to welcome new employees, prospects, and clients to our second home.
Facing a multi-layered challenge
When taking on Project: SF Office Opening, we knew our biggest stumbling blocks would be achieving transparency and visibility in the context of coordinating remotely, and across teams. Using our own product — in this case, a central Campaign Brief in Percolate that dictated coordination, collaboration, and execution — was the solution. Using the Percolate Campaign Brief, we set our objectives, identified project leads, received executive approval, and established three main deliverables: the office interior design, a San Francisco-specific webpage, and an office-warming party.
Using Percolate, our team got that visibility, and subsequently, executive buy-in on our creative ideas, shortened the approvals process on copy and design, and collaborated effectively between locations.
A second home at 140 2nd St
One of our major deliverables was making Percolate SF feel like home for every employee, no matter where they were actually based — down to the last detail. Dedicating specific sections within the Campaign to outline the budget, logistics around ordering furniture, technology, and signage, we were able to iron out every detail.
Using the Activity Stream, we worked together to come up with some of the little touches that really made Percolate SF feel familiar. From the orange chairs to the fiddle leaf fig trees to the Percolate surfboards on display, we captured it all. We even made sure to follow the same naming system for the conference rooms there as we do in New York — here we have Broome, Grand, and other Soho street names, and consistent with the local feel, our SF counterparts are Minna, Market, Mission, and so on. And one of our favorite little touches: the WiFi in our San Francisco office recognizes and connects Percolate laptops immediately — a clear signal that you’re home, even if it’s a coast away.
Beyond the small details, our IT team has put a system in place that lets us control the office TV displays across locations — keeping everyone up to date on new product releases, events we’re hosting, our social media creative, and other company highlights. (We plan the TV displays in Percolate too, but that’s a story for another time.)
Beginning the local talent hunt
One of the objectives of launching our West Coast presence was to recruit local talent, especially for our sales, engineering, and product design teams. Part of an effective recruiting strategy is being able to communicate your product, company values, and culture — especially in a market as competitive as Silicon Valley. To do this effectively, we knew we had to tell a story about why Percolate was a great opportunity, both personally and professionally.
Our plan to do that? Tell the company’s San Francisco story on a visually rich webpage — planned, designed, created, and published through Percolate. Besides developing copy and webpage wireframes, which we shared through the SF Office Opening Campaign as well, we had a more basic challenge to overcome: how do we capture office life in San Francisco the same way we do in New York?
We outsourced the office photography assignment to a freelancer in San Francisco. Our New York-based photographer Alex created a photography style guide to communicate our vision and visual guidelines to her.
“Having all of that information — that would normally be scattered across multiple emails — in one centralized place helped the freelancer to operate more efficiently… and helped us to realize the full value in our investment.” – Alex Mayer, Percolate photographer
After her shoot, our freelancer uploaded her photos directly to the Percolate Asset Manager, where they became part of the campaign that united all SF office-related projects.
The challenge didn’t stop at capturing the office on film — we had to capture it in the editorial direction for the webpage too. Our New York-based editorial team wrote copy in the Campaign space too, working with San Francisco-based leadership to gather and store information to be used on the webpage.
To add the final, personalized touches to the site we collected first-person testimonials, sound-bites, and Instagram photos from our team in SF, sharing their favorite local spots. Crowdsourcing of any kind can become a little hairy, so we had them share their images in Percolate’s mobile Photographer app. With everything — page design, photography, and copy — in one place, it meant putting all the pieces together to launch the webpage happened quickly and efficiently.
Bringing it all together
We announced our West Coast arrival with an office party and relied on the Percolate Campaign Brief to coordinate the planning — as we do with every event.
Promoting the event on our social media channels was done within Percolate too, with our team having access to the latest photos and custom social assets that designers Hayeon and Michele created. Our product’s flexibility allows publishing of various creative formats, so we were even able to design our event invites through those same creative workflows.
In the end we hosted a party that looked and felt like a Percolate party. As anyone who’s attended one would know, I can assure you we had a healthy smattering of orange balloons. Bicoastal party planning? Check.
The end result? A diverse team of 54 individuals across the product (engineering, design, product management) and business (sales, marketing, and global services) teams helping build Percolate in San Francisco. And a closetful of Percolate swag of the coffee mug, tote bag, and surf-shorts variety.
Today, when people travel between our offices, the feedback we get is that even amidst the local quirks, they feel at home on either coast. Almost all of our teams are bicoastal (even marketing has a presence out West these days), and have mastered communication through the many channels available to us. The lesson for us — and any company looking to expand its presence, be it into a new market or city — is that with every big move, a thoughtful, coordinated, and well-designed process contributes to a successful outcome. After all, no detail is too small.