SME Culture Leaders 2018: Judge Zoe Jervier on why early stage businesses need to be “intentional about culture”

Zoe Jervier helps EQT Ventures’ portfolio firms find their top talent, and also builds EQT Ventures’ own talent network. Here, she explains what she thinks makes for a great company culture.

Zoe Jervier, operating partner, talent, at EQT Ventures, helps businesses find the talent they need to build the teams that will help them scale into global successes.

Jervier was one of seven judges for the top 25 SME Culture Leaders list, which was compiled as part of a campaign by Real Business and breatheHR. You can find more about the campaign and the winners here.

We caught up with Jervier to find out what she thinks makes for a top company culture:

 How would you define company culture?

Culture is the invisible set of rules which guides behaviour inside a company, and therefore it’s the foundation which business results rest on.

Why is getting culture right important for businesses, particularly SMEs?

Small businesses, particularly at the early stage, need to be intentional about culture as it is the infrastructure to enable them to grow their team and their bottom line.

How can SMEs avoid box-ticking?

Many mistake “culture” for what they see/hear Google, Facebook et al are doing to treat their employees. Firstly, that’s not culture, they are perks; but second SMEs need to acknowledge that you don’t need a luxurious employee budget to invest in your company culture.

Every company’s DNA is different, and that’s why you can’t just copy and tweak the Netflix Culture Deck and expect to see results – you have to come up with an original definition and authentic ways to promote and nurture your culture.

What is your experience around culture? What makes you a voice of authority in this space?

As part of my role as Talent Partner at EQT Ventures, my role is to advise our portfolio of early and mid-stage companies on all topics related to talent and people.

Very often the conversations I have with founders and operators are centred around company culture, as it is connected so tightly to any people strategy. My views on company culture are constantly being refreshed and inspired by the businesses I advise, but my core philosophies have been formed by my early career working for Apple (which continues to be named #1 World’s Most Admired Company) and two venture-backed high growth startups, Mind Candy and Entrepreneur First, both of which have deliberate company cultures.

How can micro businesses (employing less than 10 people) set the right tone for company culture from the start?

Company culture in a very small business is essentially the founder who acts as the lynchpin. It’s important for founders to be highly self-aware of the values and norms on display, most importantly those which come from their own actions – they’re always on stage and what they do (or don’t do) becomes the culture. Good founders of small companies will seek feedback and discussion around the culture to ensure it constantly evolves with the team and business.

What would make a strong entry for next year’s entrants? What would impress you?

A strong entry tells us not just that they have a good company culture, but will mention how: how they have built it and how they know that it’s effective. I’m particularly impressed by companies who can demonstrate investments in company culture on a shoestring budget and companies who measure and analyse data points to inform culture.


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About Author

Letitia Booty

Letitia Booty is a special projects journalist for Real Business. She has a BA in english literature from the University of East Anglia, and since graduating she has written for a variety of trade titles. Most recently, she was a reporter at SME magazine.

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