Why this Chicago company decided to rebuild its culture from scratch

by Andreas Rekdal
December 21, 2016

Acquisitions can be tricky. Regardless of how much due diligence you exercise before going through with a deal, it’s hard to know exactly how well two companies’ technologies will play together.

But technology isn’t the only concern. Getting the company culture right can be just as difficult — if not more so. So when Chicago adtech provider Revenew merged with TMA and relaunched as Aprimo this summer, the combined entity’s new leadership decided to think big.

Instead of hashing out ground rules for negotiating cultural differences, said Laura Mueller, senior vice president of human resources, Aprimo started building an entirely new company culture from scratch.

That meant changing everything from vacation policies to how employees are expected to work alongside each other.

“It’s a reset. When you come into an established company like this and you reset everything, it really signals a big change to the employees,” she said. “That this is new, this is different, and that things are going to be managed in a new way.”

As part of the reset, Mueller said, Aprimo scrapped its old company policy book altogether. In rewriting it, they took a page out of the startup playbook, implementing an unlimited vacation policy and a deliberately minimalistic rule set.

“I’m probably going to have the smallest policy book ever in my career in HR,” she said. “Because we really don’t want a lot of policy. We want to allow employees to drive the work they do, and collaborate fluidly between teams, not having the corporate structure of having to fall within certain rules, guidelines or walls.”

The goal is to create a more startup-like culture, where employees don’t take on neatly defined roles but see themselves as part of a broader team, said Mueller. Moreover, she added, team members should feel empowered to take it in their own hands to come up with better solutions if they don’t like where a project is headed.

To Mueller, physical office spaces are also an important piece of the company culture puzzle. Over the next few months, the company’s teams across the globe will be moving into new offices designed specifically with cross-departmental collaboration in mind.

Senior Vice President of Marketing David Panek said merging two separate adtech companies allowed Aprimo to become a one-stop shop for all of its customers’ marketing needs, whether that’s refining the content of a marketing campaign or deciding where to place ads.

“We are bridging the creative and the practical process side of marketing,” said Panek. “And because we are a 100 percent cloud-based solution, you can start small in one particular area and grow based on what your priorities are.”

With that new strategy in hand, Aprimo is preparing for some serious growth.The 30-person team at Aprimo’s headquarters in Chicago will be moving into a new office with room for 80 people in March. Mueller said she expects the company to fill the space over the next year or two.

Image via Aprimo.

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