7 ways to make any company (even really big ones) feel like a startup

Courtesy FOREO

Size is a main deciding factor for many high school students trying to choose a college to attend, but many professionals don’t consider this factor when choosing a company to work for. Ambassadors at large universities will tell you that there’s so many ways to feel a big school feel small, but not vice versa. This comforting idea is commonplace on college campuses, but it’s also one that can easily transfer to corporations and businesses. More and more professionals are looking to work at startups due to their culture, perks, and tight-knit team feel.

But just like on college campuses, larger companies (even international ones) can implement changes to make their workspace feel more like a startup. Ladders spoke with the North America general manager and human resources manager from FOREO, a multi-national beauty brand with offices all around the globe, to hear their advice on how to invoke that startup feel even in a large company.


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Creating this feeling starts at hiring

Having an established welcome process will make new employees feel comfortable, excited, and appreciated. Making sure new employees are shown around the office and introduced to different teams is a very important part of the process. When employees are shown the ropes of the office, it won’t feel as intimidating or large.

While introductions and tours are pretty commonplace, FOREO also goes the extra mile to make new employees feel great about starting work there, according to Jennifer Beezer, FOREO’s North American human resources manager. FOREO’s welcome system includes sending out an office-wide email including a picture and short video of the new employee. The video allows them to introduce themselves, describe their new role, and share anything else they’d like their new employees to know.

“From there, our current staff sends their welcome messages to the new employee’s email on their first day or week,” Beezer said.

FOREO has a team of 130 employees in North America alone, which alone can make new members feel overwhelmed. Add in international offices and employees might have more trouble keeping track of people than they did while watching Game of Thrones for the first time. A welcome system like this allows employees to learn new faces and reach out as soon as new hires come abroad.

Embrace an open door policy

In a startup, a lower-level employee could work closely with the company CEO on any given day. In a large corporation, executives usually seem intimidating or foreign to many new hire and low-level employees. This mindset makes employees feel far removed from executives and discourages them from bringing problems, solutions, or new ideas straight to the top. This type of system could hinder creativity, innovation, and relationship formation in an office.

As a result, FOREO likes to delete any high level/low level talk altogether. FOREO embraces what Beezer calls an “aggressive open door policy,” meaning that none of the management team is out of reach.

“Everybody is open for conversations at any given time,” Beezer said. “Employees can march right up to the GM’s office and have a really candid conversation with him.”

This isn’t just HR propaganda, the general manager himself admitted that he “never likes to use the words ‘high level.'”

“For me, everything is the same level in the sense that if I hire someone, I hire them because they’re better at me in something,” said Beki Hoxha, FOREO’s North American general manager. “I need to bring someone to every single level so they can fill in with their knowledge and their expertise on what I don’t know.”

Define core company values

When values are aligned across company offices, employees have a shared sense of connection. FOREO starts by calling their worldwide team their “FOREO Family.”

Across the FOREO Family, the company has set values that each office and remote employee adheres to. At FOREO, they use “IDEA” to define their values. The idea stands for Integrity, Design, Evolution, and Ambition. These four words remind their employees to always stand up for what they believe in, destroy boring in design, embrace change, and remember that good enough never is.

“We embrace change,” Beezer said. “That for me is one of the driving forces that brought me here. From an HR point of view, I don’t like doing things the way that they’ve always been done. I want to be able to facilitate change and our culture really breeds that. We stay flexible.”

By setting company-wide values, each employee knows how to stick to the mission of the company.

Founders and early team members are necessary in keeping the startup feel alive

From one conversation with Hoxha, it’s clear that he keeps the early days of FOREO close to his heart and right at the back of his mind while making any sort of decision.

While Hoxha isn’t a founder, he joined the FOREO family during the company’s infancy. Hoxha recalls the first round of meetings with major department stores, still able to remember the excitement they all felt while they recapped what happened in their New York Airbnb.

“Then, a day later we were all back in Vegas recapping what happened and at the same time we were labeling boxes because we had to actually ship and relabel things,” Hoxha said. “It’s a lot of these different moments that actually allowed us to be where we are now.”

It’s by remembering these early days that Hoxha is determined to keep an open-door policy, keep fun in the office, and never have anyone be afraid to shoot an idea his way.

“I try to tell these stories every time for anyone who comes new,” Hoxha said. “That’s important because it really makes them feel like part of something, to know that whoever it is that sits as the GM now…that’s the guy who was doing what they’re doing and more.”

Encourage travel and interoffice collaboration

One of the great benefits of working at a large corporation is that there is wiggle room in the budget for travel.

FOREO encourages employees to travel between offices not only to learn from and collaborate with different colleagues but to bond with new members of their FOREO family.

This sort of travel strengthens bonds between international offices and team members traveling together alike.

Not unusually, the FOREO sales team travels quite a bit. But the company also encourages employees within other departments to take advantage of travel as well.

“One of the things we try to maximize with that is we have experts in other departments fly here to the U.S. to do orientation and on-boarding,” Beezer said.

Create communication systems between offices

When there’s easy communication between offices, it’s not hard for employees to stay up to date on what’s happening, even if the other office is 7,000 miles away.

FOREO has its major offices in the United States, Latin America, China, and Croatia. The international locations haven’t stopped the company from keeping their (FOREO) family up to date.

The FOREO International Times (FIT) is an internal newsletter that rounds up the latest news and announcements, employee highlights, and industry trends.

“At its core, FIT was designed to enable collaboration and information sharing,” Beezer said.

In addition to FIT, FOREO has Blogin, an internal open forum that allows all employees to publish articles on any chosen topic.

“So, if you feel like nominating your fellow colleague for a job well done, or providing some useful IT tips – have at it,” Beezer said.

This forum allows employees from all over the world to make announcements or bring up ideas that haven’t been mentioned in the newsletter. Inter-office communication systems like these are extremely useful in making a cohesive brand and allowing employees from across the world to feel connected.

Encourage remote workers to visit the office whenever they can

Hoxha describes the Las Vegas FOREO office as “the corporate Disneyland,” so why wouldn’t remote workers want to come for a visit?

Beezer explains that managers will often meet up with remote workers at market visits, but they are also always encouraged to visit the office, too.

“That interaction is really crucial because you can kind of get isolated as a remote employee,” Beezer said.