5 NYC Leaders Share What Makes Company Culture Strong

So to get a feel for the key ingredients that contribute to their company’s strong and successful culture, Built In NYC connected with Isaac Oates, founder and CEO of Justworks, George Koveos, SVP of operations and business development at Ro, and David Russo, managing director at iCapitalNetwork. Here’s what they had to say.

Written by Taylor Karg
Published on Feb. 19, 2021
5 NYC Leaders Share What Makes Company Culture Strong
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justworks company culture

There’s no universal recipe for a strong and successful company culture — what works for one company may not work for the next. 

But through years of experience, the following 5 New York City tech leaders have found the key ingredients to help their company achieve the above, whether it’s through creating a sense of personal accountability, fostering a collaborative environment or something else entirely.  

To get a feel for the key ingredients that contribute to their company’s strong and successful culture, Built In NYC connected with Justworks, RoPolicygeniusiCapital Network and BrainPOP. Here’s what they had to say.


justworks isaac oates

Aligning Culture and Strategy 

“Culture is shaped by the particular people who have been part of the organization, by their shared experiences and history,” Oates said. “For this reason, every culture is unique. What is helpful and strengthens a company is when that culture is aligned with the company’s strategy and the needs of their customers. For example, you could expect that a company executing on a low-cost strategy would have a different culture than a company focused on building a premium brand. A company selling to many small businesses will have a different culture than a company selling to a few big ones. Culture and strategy are enmeshed and strengthen each other as a company grows. It is nearly impossible to change one without also changing the other.”

Isaac Oates is the founder and CEO of Justworks, a human resources technology platform. 


ro george koveos

Alignment Around Company Goals 

“Alignment around company goals is the single most important factor in a strong company culture,” Koveos said. “Taking a step back, that means your goals must be well defined and that there is transparency about how each employee’s actions contribute to those goals. Some of the most common detractors to company culture are often employees feeling under-appreciated, burnt out or believing resources are misaligned. These issues go away when a company creates that critical link between each team member’s work, the company’s strategy and ultimately, its goals. 

“People have a sense of personal accountability when they know why their work matters and how it is critical to the organization’s mission and success. This team accountability, in turn, leads to stronger employee engagement and alignment. At Ro, we put this into practice by repeating our goals early and often. I like to say it’s not enough just to have a destination set, it’s rowing together as a team that gets you there — and the more in unison your strokes, then faster and smoother your journey.”

George Koveos is the SVP of operations and business development at Ro, a telehealth platform. 


jennifer fitzgerald policygenius

Making Actionable Values

“The single most important characteristic of a strong company culture is a set of values that resonates among employees, and is operationalized in the day-to-day operations of the company,” Fitzgerald said. “Most companies have a set of values written down — but how deeply have they integrated those values into operations? A strong culture means those values influence key decision-making, e.g. who to hire, who to promote, how to serve your customers. An indicator of a strong company culture is when all employees can point to examples of how the company values are operationalized in what they do every day.”

Jennifer Fitzgerald is the co-founder and CEO of Policygenius, an online insurance marketplace.  


icapital david russo

Collaboration Fosters Ownership

“For me, collaboration has always been the foundation and, by extension, the single-most important characteristic of a strong company culture,” Russo said. “A strong, collaborative environment provides a platform to bring out the best ideas from any number of stakeholders, and also fosters an act-like-an-owner mentality where each person’s voice can be heard and each idea has enough runway to potentially drive success. Collaboration permeates our organization, empowering the employees to be leaders, which is a recipe for success.”

David Russo is the managing director at iCapital Network, an alternative investment platform.


brainpop maya kadar kovalsky

An Emphasis on Trust

“To create a meaningful culture for employees, leaders must lean into the intangible elements — notably, trust — that strengthen ties between people,” Kovalsky said. “Trust and relationship-building allows employees to align around goals and ultimately make them more committed to the company’s success. Creating trust is an ongoing practice that leaders must work at through clear and thoughtful communication, valuing employee well-being, and creating rituals that connect people beyond their work relationships.”  

Maya Kadar Kovalsky is the chief culture officer at BrainPOP, an online learning resource for kids. 

Responses have been edited for length and clarity. Images were provided by featured companies.

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