Waterloo-based Axonify, an e-learning platform that uses games and incentives to make corporate learning fun, ended 2015 with a staggering $10 million in annual recurring revenue, doubling that number from the beginning of the year and growing from a team of around 30 to 60.
Of top importance to CEO and startup veteran Carol Leaman, however, is that they did so without losing their internal culture, and she says her focus remains on making that a priority as they add an estimated 35 more new employees over the upcoming year.
“I think that one of the critical elements is for me to stay very closely attached with the staff,” says Leaman, who adds that the company is bringing in a third-party facilitator in February to do a company-wide session on culture and values. It is this sort of accessibility and careful consideration of employee input that keeps Axonify employees gushing about their employer.
Lindsay Cournoyer, Director of Marketing Communications describes Axonify as “led by an experienced leadership team who is totally trusting and transparent.”
Software developer Mitch Dickinson also comments on Axonify’s leadership, saying, “The management team of Axonify is stacked. All our top executives are serial entrepreneurs that have successfully been through the trenches over and over again.”
The leadership team’s accomplishments are definitely impressive, and none more so than Leaman herself, who previous to purchasing an extremely early version of Axonify, sold her startup PostRank to Google. She also successfully built and sold manufacturing software company RSS Solutions and virtual reality player Fakespace.
With such a wealth of leadership experience in early-stage companies, it’s no wonder Leaman knows how to helm a harmonious office, but even she notes, “I do think we have something special going on here. When you have people say the best decision they ever made was to come and work here… it makes me feel good that’s for sure.”
Suzanne Hyatt, VP of Human Resources, says she believes there are many reasons for the great work atmosphere at Axonify, giving examples such as Leaman and the rest of the leadership team taking time for one-on-one coffee dates with employees, bi-weekly lunch meetings where employees recognize each other for positive contributions and a yearly team survey.
“We also have a very active social committee,” adds Hyatt, noting that there are many informal social events in the office, from cards to fitness challenges.
Friendly competition in the office is also stoked through the use of the company’s own product. All team members, including the management team, participate in an internal version of their e-learning platform, which challenges users to answer questions on company and product knowledge in order to win points that can be used towards eBay-style auctions on prizes.
“We have a product that delivers results,” says Greg Boyd, Director of Customer Success, noting that his pride in their product is one of the main reasons he loves working at Axonify.
Leaman also identifies the product as a huge element in Axonify’s culture.
“If people don’t believe in what they’re selling, and they don’t see the value in it, it’s hard to be invested in the company.”
Ultimately, Leaman believes a great working culture takes a large amount of trust.
“I’m a person who firmly believes that every single human being comes to work every day really wanting to do good things… and in my experience when you trust people to come to work with that attitude they perform in ways that you just don’t even expect.”