Stay nimble: How 5 Chicago tech companies maintain a startup culture

by Alton Zenon III
August 22, 2018

Just because a company has made it into the big leagues, that doesn’t mean it can rest on its laurels. But how do you keep that nimble startup state of mind? We spoke to leaders at five prominent Chicago tech companies to find out.

 

Home Chef team in the office having beers
image via home chef

Home Chef streamlines the cooking process by delivering pre-portioned ingredients to your home, along with cooking directions so you can make delicious meals easily. Meal delivery can be customized and organized via the company’s app. Matt Pulley, chief technology officer, said the same employee traits that made his team successful in the past are the keys to continued growth in the future. 

 

We continue to hire the whole person, rather than just a resume.”

 

Why is maintaining a startup mentality so important to your team?

Even as we mature, growing in size and complexity, it’s important to maintain elements of our startup culture like flexibility and learning. We foster those things through our iterative product planning process, where active learning is key.

 

How do you continue to recruit for people who embody those values?

When it comes to recruiting, the same core traits we needed when were were smaller are still needed now. There are more opportunities, more people and more complex decisions to be made. Now, more than ever, we need people who share our core values and our culture. So we continue to hire the whole person, rather than just a resume.

 

Paylocity team posing in their office
image via paylocity

Paylocity provides businesses with cloud-based payroll, HR and administrative software to help them increase efficiency. Senior Vice President of Product and Technology Ted Gaty and Director of Strategic Initiatives Karen Klimara provided insights into how the company maintains its startup vibe.

Maintaining elements of a startup culture allows us to deliver better results for our customers.”

 

Why is maintaining a startup mentality so important to your team?

Gaty: Maintaining elements of a startup culture allows us to deliver better results for our customers and offer a more attractive workplace for potential employees. As a company that is growing rapidly, it’s more important than ever to ensure we don’t lose sight of this mentality.

 

How do you continue to recruit for people who embody those values?
 
Klimara: We recruit for talent who embody our principles of empowered teams, accountable ownership, relentless delivery and unmitigated curiosity — all in service of meeting our customer’s needs. Our principles ground us. They are the epitome of our culture and our guiding posts to maintain our startup environment while we expand and onboard talent from anywhere across the country.

 

Employees of Guaranteed Rate chatting on sofa in office
image via guaranteed rate

Guaranteed Rate offers digital mortgage services to consumers at competitive rates. Scott Stephen, chief growth officer, said employees who embody the company’s values help keep its culture intact.

Creating a positive culture remains very important to growing the business.”

 

Why is maintaining a startup mentality so important to your team?

The keys to retaining elements of a startup culture within mature tech companies are to maintain an innovative mindset, stay close to employees and be willing to move fast.

 

How do you continue to recruit for people who embody those values?

At Guaranteed Rate, we have a set of 10 core values, which drive everything we do to serve our customers and contribute to our success. Creating a positive culture remains very important to growing the business, so we are focused on creating the right conditions, hiring great people who share our values and working hard together to drive toward our growth goals.

 

Avant employees working in conference room
image via avamt

Avant provides middle-income households with personal loans and credits cards through their online lending portal, acting as an option for those who don’t qualify for traditional bank loans. Robert Reynolds, chief technology officer, said flexibility and two-way honesty keep his company operating like a startup.

Maintaining our startup mentality and embracing our roots are huge keys to our flexibility.”

 

Why is maintaining a startup mentality so important to your team?

We make a concerted effort to empower leaders to make decisions without a heavy hand guiding them. Creating bureaucratic processes would be counterproductive to that empowerment, ultimately leading to slower delivery, less innovation and static technical design. We move at a pace where we don’t have time for those shortcomings. As such, maintaining our startup mentality and embracing our roots are huge keys to our flexibility, speed and quality of work.

 

How do you continue to recruit for people who embody those values?

We place a heavy premium on ensuring we have cultural fit in the interview process. That discovery is a two-way street — we want to make it clear to prospective employees how we operate at Avant so they can make the correct decision to join or not join our team. We also want to ask the correct questions to infer whether we believe that prospect would be a great fit or not. There is no exact science to finding a cultural fit, but if all parties are honest with each other, which is one of our core values, it leads to great results.

 

closerlook team working in conference room
image via closerlook

Digital marketing agency closerlook works to facilitate relationships between pharmaceutical companies and healthcare professionals through tools for data collection and marketing, as well as interactive website design. VP of Human Resources Joanna Kontoudakis said agility and a deep toolbox of skills are things that employees must have in order keep the company on its toes. 

What’s most important is excelling in similar work product experiences.”

 

Why is maintaining a startup mentality so important to your team?

Even though closerlook has been around for over 30 years, we’re always evolving and changing to stay in front of the needs of our customers and remain agile enough to react quickly to what we see missing in the marketplace. Our multi-disciplinary teams include pharma-marketing strategy, brand and creative strategy, multichannel marketing and marketing intelligence. We can only do this successfully in an environment that encourages a nimble and agile approach to solving our clients’ challenges.

 

How do you continue to recruit for people who embody those values?

For us, it’s recruiting for candidates who are additive to our cultural values versus just a good fit. Do recruits have the skill sets and experience that support thinking outside the box or taking a nimble approach to a new idea? Can they speak to instances where they’ve had success in other industries? We’ve found that being experts in our industry is less important in most roles. What’s most important is excelling in similar work product experiences. By relaxing this criteria, we’ve found strong candidates who are able to bring in and support fresh approaches and smart thinking.

 

Jobs from companies in this blog155 open jobs
All Jobs
Finance
Data + Analytics
Design + UX
Dev + Engineer
HR
Internships
Legal
Marketing
Operations
Product
Project Mgmt
Sales
Content
Sales
new
Paylocity
Northwest Suburbs
Project Mgmt
new
Avant
Chicago
Marketing
new
closerlook, inc.
Chicago
Finance
new
Guaranteed Rate
Chicago
Project Mgmt
new
Avant
Chicago
Operations
new
Guaranteed Rate
Chicago
Operations
new
Guaranteed Rate
Chicago
Sales
new
Guaranteed Rate
Chicago
Data + Analytics
new
Guaranteed Rate
Chicago
Developer
new
Avant
Chicago
Sales
new
Guaranteed Rate
Chicago
Marketing
new
Guaranteed Rate
Chicago
Sales
new
Guaranteed Rate
Chicago
Marketing
new
Guaranteed Rate
Chicago
Sales
new
Guaranteed Rate
Chicago
Sales
new
Guaranteed Rate
Chicago
Operations
new
Guaranteed Rate
Chicago
Developer
new
Avant
Chicago
Operations
new
Avant
Chicago
Finance
new
Paylocity
Northwest Suburbs
Developer
new
Avant
Chicago
Project Mgmt
new
Paylocity
Chicago
Developer
new
Avant
Chicago
Data + Analytics
new
Avant
Chicago
Sales
new
Guaranteed Rate
Chicago
Developer
new
Guaranteed Rate
Chicago
Sales
new
closerlook, inc.
Chicago
Operations
new
closerlook, inc.
Chicago
Operations
new
Guaranteed Rate
Chicago
Sales
new
closerlook, inc.
Chicago
Operations
new
Guaranteed Rate
Chicago
Data + Analytics
new
Paylocity
Northwest Suburbs
HR
new
Paylocity
Northwest Suburbs
Finance
new
Paylocity
Northwest Suburbs
Finance
new
Paylocity
Chicago
Data + Analytics
new
Avant
Chicago
Product
new
Avant
Chicago
Developer
new
Avant
Chicago
Operations
new
Avant
Chicago
Finance
new
Avant
Chicago
Data + Analytics
new
Avant
Chicago
Data + Analytics
new
Avant
Chicago
Data + Analytics
new
Avant
Chicago
Operations
new
Paylocity
Chicago
Operations
new
Home Chef
Chicago
Sales
new
Guaranteed Rate
Chicago
Internships
new
Paylocity
Northwest Suburbs
Project Mgmt
new
Paylocity
Northwest Suburbs
Operations
new
Paylocity
Northwest Suburbs
Operations
new
Paylocity
Chicago
Operations
new
Paylocity
Northwest Suburbs
Sales
new
Paylocity
Northwest Suburbs
Developer
new
Paylocity
Northwest Suburbs
Operations
new
Paylocity
Northwest Suburbs
Design + UX
new
Paylocity
Northwest Suburbs
Developer
new
Paylocity
Northwest Suburbs
Sales
new
Paylocity
Northwest Suburbs
Product
new
Paylocity
Northwest Suburbs
Developer
new
Paylocity
Northwest Suburbs
Developer
new
Paylocity
Northwest Suburbs
Developer
new
Paylocity
Northwest Suburbs
Product
new
Paylocity
Northwest Suburbs
Data + Analytics
new
Avant
Chicago
Developer
new
Guaranteed Rate
Chicago
Developer
new
Guaranteed Rate
Chicago
Data + Analytics
new
Guaranteed Rate
Chicago
Design + UX
new
closerlook, inc.
Chicago
Marketing
new
closerlook, inc.
Chicago
Finance
new
Home Chef
Chicago
Operations
new
Avant
Chicago
Data + Analytics
new
Avant
Chicago
Data + Analytics
new
Home Chef
Chicago
Project Mgmt
new
Home Chef
Chicago
Operations
new
Guaranteed Rate
Chicago
Design + UX
new
Guaranteed Rate
Chicago
Operations
new
Guaranteed Rate
Chicago
Sales
new
Guaranteed Rate
Chicago
Marketing
new
Guaranteed Rate
Chicago
Sales
new
Guaranteed Rate
Chicago
Sales
new
Guaranteed Rate
Chicago
Operations
new
Guaranteed Rate
Chicago
Operations
new
Guaranteed Rate
Chicago
Operations
new
Guaranteed Rate
Chicago
Finance
new
Guaranteed Rate
Chicago
Sales
new
Guaranteed Rate
Chicago
Marketing
new
Guaranteed Rate
Chicago
Finance
new
Paylocity
Northwest Suburbs
Operations
new
Paylocity
Northwest Suburbs
Operations
new
Paylocity
Northwest Suburbs
Project Mgmt
new
Home Chef
Chicago
Operations
new
Avant
Chicago
Project Mgmt
new
Home Chef
Chicago
Marketing
new
Home Chef
Chicago
Project Mgmt
new
closerlook, inc.
Chicago
Finance
new
Guaranteed Rate
Chicago
Content
new
Guaranteed Rate
Chicago
Marketing
new
Home Chef
Chicago
Data + Analytics
new
Home Chef
Chicago
Developer
new
Avant
Chicago
Operations
new
Avant
Chicago
Data + Analytics
new
Avant
Chicago
Data + Analytics
new
Avant
Chicago
Data + Analytics
new
Avant
Chicago
Sales
new
Guaranteed Rate
Chicago
Marketing
new
Guaranteed Rate
Chicago
Sales
new
Guaranteed Rate
Chicago
Finance
new
Guaranteed Rate
Chicago
Finance
new
Guaranteed Rate
Chicago
Data + Analytics
new
Avant
Chicago
Developer
new
Avant
Chicago
Operations
new
Home Chef
Chicago
Sales
new
Guaranteed Rate
Chicago
Finance
new
Guaranteed Rate
Chicago
Marketing
new
Home Chef
Chicago
Operations
new
Guaranteed Rate
Chicago
Marketing
new
Guaranteed Rate
Chicago
Product
new
Home Chef
Chicago
Data + Analytics
new
Avant
Chicago
Product
new
Avant
Chicago
Data + Analytics
new
Avant
Chicago
Sales
new
Guaranteed Rate
Chicago
Data + Analytics
new
Guaranteed Rate
Chicago
Operations
new
Home Chef
Chicago
HR
new
Home Chef
Chicago
Operations
new
Avant
Chicago
Data + Analytics
new
Avant
Chicago
Operations
new
Guaranteed Rate
Chicago
Product
new
Avant
Chicago
Developer
new
Avant
Chicago
Operations
new
closerlook, inc.
Chicago
Operations
new
Paylocity
Northwest Suburbs
Operations
new
Guaranteed Rate
Chicago
Sales
new
Guaranteed Rate
Chicago
Sales
new
Guaranteed Rate
Chicago
Marketing
new
Guaranteed Rate
Chicago
HR
new
Guaranteed Rate
Chicago
Sales
new
Guaranteed Rate
Chicago
Project Mgmt
new
closerlook, inc.
Chicago
Operations
new
closerlook, inc.
Chicago
Data + Analytics
new
closerlook, inc.
Chicago
Finance
new
closerlook, inc.
Chicago
Finance
new
Avant
Chicago
Developer
new
Avant
Chicago
Sales
new
Avant
Chicago

Chicago startup guides

LOCAL GUIDE
Best Companies to Work for in Chicago
LOCAL GUIDE
Best Software Engineer Jobs in Chicago
LOCAL GUIDE
Coolest Offices in Chicago Tech
LOCAL GUIDE
Best Sales Jobs in Chicago
LOCAL GUIDE
Best Perks at Chicago Tech Companies
LOCAL GUIDE
Your Guide to Healthtech in Chicago
LOCAL GUIDE
Best Data Science & Data Analyst Jobs in Chicago
LOCAL GUIDE
Best Marketing Jobs in Chicago