The Evolution of HubSpot's Company Culture | PSOhub
by Qismat Riaz on February 3, 2023
A few years ago, HubSpot shared an internal document about their company culture with the world.
Since HubSpot published this original document dubbed the HubSpot Culture Code (last iteration June 2021), it has been viewed over 6 million times online.
Needless to say, people are interested in the details behind an awesome company culture like HubSpot’s. What are their values? What makes them so great to work both for and with?
Creating company culture isn’t easy, though HubSpot points out it happens anyway. It’s the intentional culture that bears good fruit that can be difficult to arrive at.
So much so, HubSpot has done numerous iterations of its Culture Code, to the extent that there are contrasts between HubSpot’s culture today and where it was 4 years ago.
Here’s a look at the evolution of HubSpot’s company culture. See how you may be able to put some of their wisdom into play at your own organization.
Need help codifying your company culture? Here’s a free template from HubSpot to create your own Culture Code!
From the beginning…
From the beginning, HubSpot has fostered a company culture of harmony between wanting what’s best for the customer, the company, and the individual.
The pillars or core values that create that harmony has remained the same since the first iteration of the Culture Code. Here’s what’s remained constant in HubSpot’s company culture since the beginning.
For reference, this is an older version (circa 2018) of the HubSpot Culture Code, where you can point out the similarities with what exists now.
Solve For The Customer– SFTC in HubSpot speak– remains the overarching purposeful action that guides the culture of the company. This is the one goal that unites all the different roles at HubSpot and the linchpin of their core values.
As effective ways to solve for the customer and keep the momentum going forward, HubSpot’s evolving Culture Code continues to encourage action and decision.
‘Wrong’ decisions are better than no decision at all, and to be HubSpotty, you’ve got to be a doer. Action over inaction, new trails over old roads, mistakes over not showing up.
While making a ‘wrong’ decision could have a negative impact on the customer in the short term, it could be an important lesson for the long term. Hence, you’ll actually serve the customer better over time if you’re willing to make a mistake and learn from it. JFDI (Just F!@#$%^ Do It): this is the HubSpot way.
Customer, Company, Individual
The company’s culture, as a whole and with respect to SFTC specifically, reflects HubSpot’s customer-first strategy. But one of the most interesting things about HubSpot company culture is the idealized relationship between customer, company, and individual, aka the HubSpot team member.
More specifically, the Culture Code lays bare how HubSpot wants its team to view this relationship.
While HubSpot needs to maintain its customer-first ethic by putting customers over the company, the company is brazenly honest about its own self-interest. The Culture Code both then and now speaks to a more symbiotic relationship between customer and company. What is good for the customer is good for the company and vice versa. With the balance shifted toward the customer, of course.
To best solve for the customer, HubSpot wants people on their side that are ‘HubSpotty’. What does that mean? They define it with an acronym, but the gist is that they want characteristics that involve high levels of emotional intelligence– empathy, humility, ability to digest feedback, etc.
HubSpot actively recruits people with these emotional skills coupled with a go-getter attitude and a desire to improve/reiterate (aka ‘rework’). HubSpot explains that this goes for their company culture, their customer experience, and themselves as individuals.
As far as roles and hierarchy in the company culture are concerned– the relationship between the company and the individual– HubSpot leans toward more traditional power structures but insists that influence is independent of hierarchy.
Though transparent with open doors, HubSpot is not a populist operation; instead, the brand compares it to a sailboat crew, explaining that transparency is not democracy:
“It’s not about decisions by consensus. We designate one person to make a decision and sail the boat.”
In short, HubSpot says their culture reflects an ethic of customer>company>individual, but as an outside observer, it appears to be a more symbiotic relationship where the needs and success of each are in harmony with one another.
Keep it on the ground.
One of the differentiators about HubSpot culture since the early days before the first Culture Code was published is the essence of down-to-earthiness, for lack of a better term.
While SaaS businesses and other tech companies can get really up in the clouds with their cultural rhetoric, HubSpot strikes a practical balance between fostering hopes and dreams and keeping everyone’s mind on data, where things stand in the present moment.
The result is an aspirational company culture that’s in reality, very skeptical of the aspirational, preferring to rely on data and metrics until goals are achieved. It’s an important characteristic that distinguishes HubSpot culture from more maniacally positive company cultures that get lost in their own ideals.
The HubSpot company culture keeps things moving on the ground, calling out aspirational rhetoric when it reflects something that is not yet true.
They are also unshy about how selective they are when it comes to hiring. HubSpot has always maintained they are ‘not a utopian workplace’, regardless of how many outlets rate them as one of the best places to work.
The HubSpot company culture has undergone some changes in the past few years. At least, that’s what can be garnered from the differences in their Culture Code from past iterations to where it stands today. Here’s a look at what’s changed behind the scenes at HubSpot as far as their philosophy and the kind of people they are trying to both keep and attract for their working team.
Culture as Product
We can see the word ‘culture’ defined a thousand times, but the essence of culture tends to be largely intangible. That is, we can say what culture looks like, sounds like, and feels like, but it’s hard to nail down what it really is.
In a genius move already written about by many on the internet, HubSpot now focuses more on its company culture as a product than in years past. For example, the 2018 iteration of the Culture Code had just one slide about culture as a product. The current document contains four slides that go into more detail.
“We obsess over our culture just like our product. Because culture is a product.” HubSpot
The company states they build two products, one for their customers and one (culture) for their employees. Like a great product is to marketing, so is a great company culture for recruiting talented new team members.
Speaking of teams, that’s the metaphor HubSpot is sticking with for the foreseeable future. A successful team requires selflessness and sacrifice. It also will generate revenue for owners, who must make smart decisions to make sure there are ‘stars in every position’.
In other words, at HubSpot, the team is the product. They are at once serving customers, the first product, and embodying HubSpot culture, the second product.
Although the broader idea of company culture as a product has been in the Culture Code since the beginning, it currently enjoys more emphasis with the brand since 2021, perhaps because HubSpot’s Culture Code itself has received millions of views on the internet.
From ‘Effective’ to ‘Empathetic’
HubSpot still retains its signature acronym to describe the people they want to attract, aka what makes someone HubSpot material. HEART uses five adjectives, to sum up, this persona. While the majority remains the same, the ‘E’ has been changed from ‘Effective’ to ‘Empathetic’:
HEART - HubSpot Values
Empathetic (formerly ‘Effective’)
At first, it reads like no big deal, but HubSpot outwardly states that they hire, fire, and reward people in their organization based on these attributes.
In the past, the ‘E’ of the HubSpot HEART stood for ‘effective’. Now, it’s still within the deck, this time sandwiched later on under ‘R’ for ‘remarkably effective’.
That’s because presently, outward-facing HubSpot culture puts more of an emphasis on empathy. They state that for the brand, empathy means someone who ‘goes beyond understanding another person’s perspective’ and ‘acts with compassion and respect for customers, partners, and colleagues.
In the past, HubSpot's company culture promoted empathy but in a more organic, less explicit way. Now, HubSpot calls more attention to the importance of empathy in the relationships between employees and customers and employees among themselves.
A stronger focus on empathy hits on trend with more business leaders focusing on developing empathetic traits and more talented workers demanding a better work-life balance. HubSpot accomplishes both.
Diversity & Remote Work
Finally, the biggest difference between version 1 of the HubSpot Culture Code and where it stands today is the increased focus on these two subjects: diversity and remote work.
HubSpot company culture has always encouraged thinking differently:
“To think differently we need to be different. We cannot all be the same.” HubSpot
Thus, their stronger emphasis on diversity rings genuine in the current business climate, where diversity and inclusivity are the ultimate virtues. These were always virtues at HubSpot, though arguably not explicitly.
Because HubSpot customers are diverse, and the overarching mission and linchpin of the culture are to solve for the customer, it follows that HubSpot would want to create a diverse team to benefit everyone.
Though HubSpot’s company culture has always openly encouraged diversity, the brand has also acknowledged that it should have focused on it more intently, and sooner. They now publish their diversity data for the public to see.
For HubSpot, diversity benefits its customers and its company culture. Part of putting together a more diverse team includes permitting remote work, as this opens the company up to talent outside of geographic headquarters.
HubSpot believes in letting the best people do their best work, regardless of where they live or when they work. It’s repeated time and again that results are what matter most. Results matter more than where they are produced or even how long it takes.
Remote work has long been a part of the HubSpot culture, but the most recent version of the Culture Code emphasizes it more.
Perhaps that’s because HubSpot themselves has put a lot of investment into perks for their remote workers. In addition to unlimited vacation and the other old-school benefits of working at HubSpot, HubSpot now hosts remote water coolers for no-pressure socialization. By all appearances, these are pretty popular with the team.
Here’s a peek at what it’s like to work remotely at HubSpot
There’s a lot of information in the HubSpot Culture Code that details the company's mission, its philosophy, and the way they see itself in the world. This discussion could last many more pages. And it’s easy to see why this once-internal document has been viewed millions of times around the world.
If you look at what’s remained the same in the past four years, you can see HubSpot’s commitment to solving for the customer and making this the sort of cultural epicenter for the company.
HubSpot still operates with a customer-first mindset that belies its true nature of balance and harmony between customers, the company, and employees.
HubSpot’s company culture began with a down-to-earth attitude, and it remains that way.
They’re still obsessed with data. They still call out the aspirational as something that has not yet happened.
HubSpot’s company culture has evolved in the biggest way in that now the culture is treated as a product itself. Culture as a product and product as a team are more prominent in the HubSpot Culture Code and mentions of their company culture online.
More changes include putting increased focus on empathy, diversity, and positive remote work culture. These three areas are currently popular focal points for businesses that want to attract great talent, but from the looks of it, HubSpot has always been ahead of the curve.
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