Company values serve as core tenets of culture, models for hiring and inspiration when things get tough. In some ways, they’re the blueprint of how a workplace should feel to its employees.
Should they ever change?
Leaders at CB Insights think so. The 300-employee company recently revisited its company values, dubbed the five H’s, in an attempt to not change but to preserve its culture. According to Pratiksha Patel, SVP of people strategy, the move allowed previously unspoken or assumed values to be elevated into everyday conversations around performance, hiring and culture.
“If values are what we believe in and how we want our cultural vibe to be, that directly links to how the company evolves,” Patel said. “You should pressure test your values once a year to ensure that they are the embodiment of what you find to be the North Star.”
Values have helped CB Insights scale in the past. To Customer Success Manager Tanja Stendahl, who has been at the company since 2018, they’ve guided new employees on how to best work together and have created a rich team dynamic. Instead of conforming to the same ways of thinking, the company values have allowed people with a great range of experience to work together more effectively.
“Having seen my team double in size, I think the company has done a fantastic job of bringing people in with a lot of different backgrounds, skill sets and personalities,” Stendahl said. “But at the end of the day, everyone exhibits these core values.”
“If a company can unite everyone, it can accomplish anything,” added Puppy Tsai, a data lead. “That’s the most important part of having values that everyone agrees on — we can stick together.”
Built In NYC sat down with three members of CB Insights’ team to find out why these values are essential to their culture, why revisiting them is important and how values can set a company up for future growth.
Inside CB Insights
- What they do: CB Insights uses data and analytics to help companies find promising investment opportunities. The platform uses information about startups, funding and news to transform numbers on a page into valuable insights into the future of the marketplace through visualization.
- Where they do it: Midtown, Manhattan.
- Notable clients: Cisco, Salesforce, ADP.
CB Insights just shifted its values, adding two values and dropping another. Tell us a little about that decision.
SVP of People Strategy Pratiksha Patel: We shifted from four H’s to five H’s to bring more clarity to what we believe in. We have this shared commitment to these values and what they actually look like in action. That way, we all as individuals know what it looks like to demonstrate what we call the “competencies,” or the behaviors that relate to our values. So we ended up refreshing our values and wrote more detailed competencies that describe what it looks like to put those values in action.
What are the new H’s that were added?
Patel: One of the new H’s is “hard work.” This is a good example of an underlying value that was just not written down — I don’t think anyone would argue that we didn’t implicitly value and signal that hard work is a really important part of our company.
The other H that is new is “high standards.” That’s driven by personal excellence, deliberate decision-making and mastery of the details. We’ve consistently had high standards implicitly, but I don’t know that we ever had a good understanding of what it looks like to demonstrate that.
In discovering new values, so much of what we had identified were things that were not explicitly part of our nomenclature yet, but they were areas that were going to help us scale and get us to where we want to be in the future.
How do these core values play out in your work?
Data Lead Puppy Tsai: Having the five H’s make things very clear. You don’t normally think of the values during a workday, but if someone asked you about the company culture, you can immediately think of examples for all the five H’s.
Every H is intertwined. For example, “hungry” is wanting to do better all the time. That means asking questions and seeking help. In turn, that H shifts to “helpful.” We are not afraid of asking questions — everybody has questions and so we’re all willing to help out. And that leads to “humility.” I think that is a really positive circle.
Customer Success Manager Tanja Stendahl: We’re surrounded by all these examples of our values constantly, so it is an easy way to stay on top of your game.
Hunger is such a good one, because it keeps you motivated and on your toes. Driving yourself to go above and beyond and thinking about other ways you can approach work drives that innovative spirit within the company. For example, if you’re doing something one way because that’s the way it’s been done before, having “hunger” is to say, “What’s another way that we can do this better?” I’m a big process person. Anytime I’m stuck in the same old loops, I start to think about how we can make it better.
The 5 H's of CB Insights
- Hard work
- High standards
CB Insights is scaling. Why are values especially important right now?
Patel: Something our CEO says is, “We’re a different company every 18 to 24 months.” For us, revisiting our values had to do with a combination of leadership change and anticipating business model change.
This year, we made our first acquisition and we crossed the 300-employee mark. These milestones signal a future that we want to be more ready for and we wanted to make sure we were calibrating our values accordingly. If values are what we believe in and how we want our cultural vibe to be, that directly links to how the company evolves. You should pressure test your values once a year to ensure that they are the embodiment of what you find to be the North Star.
When the number of employees started going up a little bit, I found myself not only being able to ask questions but also being able to help others.”
Stendahl: Every single person that’s joined has been a fantastic addition to the team. I truly enjoy all of my coworkers — we all hang out and chat after meetings, throw happy hours and call each other during lunch.
At the end of the day, everyone is bringing their own strengths, knowledge and insight to how they approach the job. Maybe you’re stuck in a rut of doing something the same way, but you can pop into a Slack chat and ask who’s doing a task differently and get three completely different responses.
Tsai: When I started last year, our data team only had eight or nine people. Now, we have 15 on our team. At first, it was pretty intimate because there were so few people on the team. We could talk to each other very easily, ask questions and learn things quickly.
When the number of employees started going up a little bit, I found myself not only being able to ask questions but also being able to help others. I really enjoy the process of that. When you have confidence in the company and in your team, you can see and expect more from each other.
How do values help with professional development?
With the growth CB Insights is seeing, you’re bringing on more team members. How do you teach new members of the team about your values?
Stendahl: Having worked at a variety of different startups, onboarding at CB Insights was such a different experience: Many people from different teams reached out to set up time for coffee and made sure I got a better understanding of what the company does. I was able to see all of these leaders and people from other teams exhibiting these helpful, humble and hungry attitudes.
Tsai: I really loved the onboarding process. The people team really makes an effort to set up a lot of trainings and introductions to really help you learn the different functions of the company. I remember my first company retreat. It was my first outing with so many people and I was terrified, to be honest. But Tanja was really open and talked to me for the entire trip. I was so grateful because she shared her experiences with me and made me feel much more relaxed.
Stendahl: Plus, at that time, our company was working out of two separate offices. I was just so excited to talk with someone from the other office, to hear about what it was like over there.
Patel: Tanja, when is the last time you and Puppy talked?
Stendahl: Virtually, we’ve chatted during the last hour.