TaxBit’s Five Cultural Principles are Guiding Growing Teams to Greatness

After growing from 50 employees to more than 260 in four markets, leaders at TaxBit have recently rolled out five cultural principles developed by internal teams to forge a stronger culture.

Written by Tyler Holmes
Published on Nov. 30, 2022
TaxBit’s Five Cultural Principles are Guiding Growing Teams to Greatness

When 70 of TaxBit’s employees entered their virtual groups in the late spring and early summer months of 2022, nobody knew what to expect.

They hadn’t been summoned for another all-hands meeting or the organization’s weekly Friday celebration meal. Nor had they been summoned for a meeting focused on business metrics and KPIs.

Each team member had volunteered to be part of an internal focus group with a common goal: Establish and codify TaxBit’s five cultural principles to create alignment among rapidly growing teams.

From May to July, these 70 team members — made up from employees at TaxBit’s hubs in Salt Lake City, Seattle, San Francisco and Washington, D.C. — were broken into groups of ten and instructed to begin deliberating on what principles guided the TaxBit team.

The smaller groups were instrumental in keeping the conversations more intimate and allowing everyone to contribute in a meaningful way.

The tax and accounting software company had grown over 500 percent in the past year, expanding from a humble 50-person team to a sprawling 260 across four cities — with no intention of slowing down. Leadership quickly realized that in order to stay connected across cities, and to seamlessly integrate new candidates into the company’s culture, a system of guiding principles etched in symbolic stone was essential.

From May to July, teams answered general yet impactful questions: What are we like when we’re doing our best work? Where do we have room to improve? How do we define impact? Who and what should we aspire to be?

 

WHAT TAXBIT DOES

TaxBit was founded in 2018 by a team of CPAs, engineers and tax lawyers with the goal of expanding access to cryptocurrencies and digital assets. TaxBit provides solutions to simplify cryptocurrency tax reporting, allowing clients to adopt cryptocurrency while adhering to tax compliance laws. “As we’ve grown, we’ve been making huge strides on being purposefully inclusive and diverse — for both our teams and our customers — which I think is really important,” Nicki Sanders said.

 

“We all influence the culture on a daily basis, so we wanted to hear as many voices as possible,” said Richelle Medellín, head of people and culture. “We took very detailed notes from each of the conversations that we had, and we were very intentional to make sure that everyone who chose to participate actually participated. We needed to hear their voices — even people who had only been TaxBit for a couple of weeks. It was open to everyone, because everyone has unique experiences they bring to the table.”

After a thorough number of workshops, a few heated discussions, and even a mathematical equation created by a few engineers to measure the importance of “effort vs. result,” the team had reached their five values: maximize impact, owner’s mindset, transparency, optimistic realist and win together.

 

TaxBit values with pictures.
TaxBit

 

“When the leadership team started talking about putting together a basic values roadmap, I was curious to see how we were going to avoid being stuck on opposite ends of the spectrum,” Medellín said. “One of the lightbulb moments for me was that there was a lot of consistency — more than I would have expected. Transparency came up in literally every single conversation I had this summer with teams.”

 

 

“Something I’ve noticed growing from 50 people to 260 is that we are more actively going out to meet with clients,” added Principle Developer Advocate Nicki Sanders. “If we didn’t make the effort to be more diverse and inclusive through our principles, when you meet with these external partners, you may not be able to reach a point of understanding. If you’re siloed in one prominent culture but are selling to companies that embrace diversity, you’re not going to be able to connect with these people — and as your company grows, you won’t be able to connect with your customers.”

After all, what’s something that crypto enthusiasts, journalists, pop stars and grocery store clerks have in common?

“Everyone pays taxes!” Medellín exclaimed. “So we really need to be as inclusive as possible because our product can touch everyone.”

Built In sat down with Medellín, Sanders and Product Manager Arun Loganathan to discover how these five principles are helping them develop the best talent and why every employee has a voice at TaxBit regardless of tenure.

 

The break room and kitchen in the TaxBit office.
TAXBIT

 

What was the process like of discovering TaxBit’s five values? Why was that crucial?

Nicki Sanders, Principle Developer Advocate: When you’re a tiny startup, there’s so many things to worry about in the beginning. But once you get into hyper-growth mode, values have to be something that you start thinking about. If you don’t have strong cultural diversity, you’re missing out on so much talent during the hiring process. 

Throughout most of my career, I’ve been one of the only women on the whole engineering team. For TaxBit to make active strides in bringing more women onto our teams and making sure our voices are heard is huge — and a stark difference from what I’ve experienced at other companies.

Richelle Medellín, Head of People & Culture: As we have continued to grow, we had to start thinking in an open-minded way about different skill sets, backgrounds, educations and people to make sure the top of the funnel is as wide as possible. Codifying our principles helps us do that in a way that holds us accountable for being consistent. We can tie this consistency back to our interviewing practices, and we can tie it into how we think about our long-term performance checks. 

We are very intentionally hand-selecting each person that we bring in based on their skills, the relationships that we that we build with them and the niche we need to fill in a particular role. Because of our size, we can continue to be intentional on a one-by-one hiring basis. 

Every single person has the ability to come in and be really impactful.

Arun Loganathan, Product Manager: Transparency” and “win together” are actually part of the crypto and web3 ethos, because Bitcoin and blockchain are all about transparency. It’s not a surprise that those values came up in all of our discussions.

 

Culture eats strategy for breakfast.

 

What is TaxBit’s culture like? How do you make sure teams feel supported?

Medellín: We just launched our first employee resource group (ERG) earlier this month, and we’re calling it TaxBit Inclusion Network. Right now we just have one ERG because we’ve had a lot of people come together organically and say “Hey, these things are important. We want to make sure that we’re taking an owner’s mindset to be intentional and inclusive.”

Earlier this year, we had a group of people get together in our SLC and Seattle offices to discuss how Pride Month was coming up and that they wanted TaxBit to be involved. So we participated in the festival that happens here in Utah, and then we participated in Seattle as well. It happened as an organic grassroots situation with people raising their hands to ask how to get something started.

Sanders: Every Friday, we have lunch brought into all four different offices so we can eat, take time to chat, and then get on a call together for 30 minutes and go over the wins for the week. 

The first time I came to the TaxBit office was because I had been invited to this lunch back when we were just around 30 people. When I came to my first wins meeting, almost everyone could fit on this couch they had all together. At first I was a little nervous and thought I was maybe being inducted into a cult. But once it started, I realized that this event was really just about every teammate enjoying themselves — it was awesome. Wherever you are and whatever mood you’re in, you’re invited to participate.

Loganathan: Culture eats strategy for breakfast. If you don’t have a strong culture and common characteristics, one year down the line you will be in decline. Having those foundational values to me is really important. It means that we have the right environment where people feel safe and empowered to grow. In turn, this will show in the products and how we satisfy our clients’ needs effectively.

 

Rows of desks in the TaxBit office look out at the water through a wall of windows.
TAXBIT

 

How have you seen the five cultural principles reflected in TaxBit’s culture?

Loganathan: At prior companies I’ve worked at, the amount of time people talk in meetings is directly proportional to their level and job title. Here at TaxBit, it doesn’t matter. You can challenge anyone at any point and you have a voice in the room — your ideas are taken into account regardless of your title. Our managers and leaders during meetings sit back, listen to what all of us have to say and then ask a couple questions.

Medellín: Something else we started putting into practice is that every Monday we have a company-wide meeting. Earlier this year  we celebrated Diwali together, and recently we did a spotlight on Native American Heritage Month. Obviously, we still have a lot of learning to do, but we’re trying to find these kinds of micro opportunities to provide education and to celebrate those things that make us unique or different — we’re small and these are our first steps. Doing large-scale events like we did for Hispanic Heritage Month in October is an authentic way of humanizing ourselves and bringing us all together.

 

The only way you can bring new people in and make them feel like part of the culture is when you have this mindset of winning together.

 

Which cultural principle do you most personally align with?

Sanders: “Maximize impact.” When I came on, I was the only person with my skill set expertise in blockchain engineering hired at the company. I was allowed to run with that expertise and hire the team around me. In my new role, I was again supported to write my job description and define what I want to do in order to add value. I’ve never heard of this happening before, which was really cool. I’m really given the opportunity to maximize my impact because I’m trusted as an expert in my field.

 

IMPACT = SMART RISKS + EFFORT + RESULTS + LESSONS LEARNED

What is impact? TaxBit describes impact as “The summation of the smart risks we take, the effort we put forth to drive innovation forward, the results we share with transparency, and the lessons we learn along the way. How we achieve our goals matters. We maximize our impact by focusing on the mission, iterating, and sharing results.”

 

Medellín: Being an “optimistic realist,” because I think it’s something that defines us as we navigate and build out this gap in the industry. We are trying to define what this industry is going to look like and how it is going to be able to move forward in the next 10 years. There’s a lot of responsibility that goes with that. It’s fun and exciting, but it’s also very serious. It’s important in my role to lean heavily into the optimistic realist part.

Loganathan: I’m going to say “owner’s mindset” is most important to me. In a startup, as much as the roles are well-defined, there are often grey areas in which you need to feel like an owner and go fill that gap. There are pockets in time where I’ve done implementation roles or even sales roles while I’ve been at TaxBit. No shoes are too big or too small for me to fill in. I want others to also feel the same at TaxBit because that’s how we grow as a company.

 

Responses have been edited for length and clarity. Images provided by TaxBit.

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