Scaling marketing tech startup CallRail has expanded rapidly over the past few years, following a $75 million growth capital infusion in 2017. The call tracking platform helps business owners spend their marketing dollars wisely by letting them know where their valuable leads are coming from.
But when you grow from dozens to nearly 200 employees in a few years — with nearly 250 more planned for the future — it can be hard to continue nurturing close connections between employees and leadership.
Mia Vasser, CallRail’s first culture manager, says it’s all about the right timing and a solid foundation. Herself a product of CallRail’s fast growth, she climbed the ladder from office assistant to this role in less than six months.
That may seem quick, but Vasser’s community building background helped her be perceptive to gaps in the company culture.
“We could talk about the problem, but what is it that we could actually do?” she explains about her directive in this position.
After a decade-long film production career in Atlanta, Vasser took a one-year working sabbatical in Australia. There, she learned to put her skills as an active listener and solution-based individual to work at a community non-profit.
Once she returned to Atlanta, she found herself back in film production, but it didn’t quite click like before. She applied to a part-time position at CallRail as an office assistant to wait out a career change.
What she didn’t know was that this role would become her career change. CallRail soon brought her on full-time due to her communications and community-building skills.That’s when she started learning about terms like inclusion and diversity.
“I didn’t even know that existed in a company, so I started going down the rabbit hole, learning more about culture because I love creating experiences for people. I love being uncomfortable,” she says.
Vasser started “hustling up”, as she says, once she realized she had the opportunity to influence CallRail’s work culture. She worked closely with several members of the leadership team to shape her job description.
“I started asking questions and gathering nuggets of knowledge from people that probably didn’t even know anything about culture, but they were still able to point me in the right direction,” says Vasser.
To further promote the need for a culture manager, she started closely examining the company’s Glassdoor reviews, which she saw as a way to connect with CEO Andy Powell. The reviews showcased a lack of transparency, from overall employee trust to specific company happenings.
“If employees don’t trust the leadership, we need to have a conversation about that,” she recalls saying to Powell. Vasser proposed a solution: a Culture Ambassadors Board that would give all employees a voice in decision-making.
Following the hiring of a VP of Talent and Culture, Vasser nabbed the position she desired.
The culture ambassadors bring together three people that represent each of the seven departments each month to discuss any restructuring, new leadership hires, and other company issues, with a survey distributed prior to each meeting to focus the discussions. The representatives are first nominated by their team and then adjusted as needed to make sure there’s a balance of experience and perspectives.
“This board is not meant to be a bandaid for all issues,” Vasser says. “This will both lead to higher employee retention and employee happiness. We want this to be solutions-based.”
Once she jumped fully into the role, Vasser also started examining the weak spots within company culture.
“No one was really thinking about the internal customers — how can we support and make an environment where people want to work here?”
“It goes beyond free coffee and ping pong tables — those are a dime a dozen,” she says.
To gather the data she needed to refine existing culture, she started meeting with employees one-on-one. Her previous post as executive assistant encouraged people to share honest insights about their experiences.
“I sat in the front of the office and a lot of people just felt comfortable already talking to me and sharing their life story,” says Vasser.
That open door policy continues to this day, especially in light of political and socially-charged news that could affect the productivity of employees. Vasser sees interpersonal communication, teamwork, and lasting friendships as the pillars of community within CallRail.
She has even created mental wellness workshops for employees, along with candid conversation panels to discuss different views in a safe space.
“I learned very early on that I can’t take offense to everything that people say because they just may not necessarily know how to say it. I choose to use the approach of not listening to respond, but listening to see what they’re actually trying to say,” she says.
Next, Vasser is translating those positive takeaways from working with the existing team to shift the onboarding process for new employees. She’s gathering feedback from different departments to create a unified welcome message for new hires.
Through candid gatherings and international food spreads that speak to employees’ cultural backgrounds, Vasser’s ultimate goal this year is create a sense of community, connectivity, and belonging at CallRail by helping employees to better know each other.
Vasser is honest about the fact that not everything is “rainbows and butterflies”, and that building a strong work culture in tandem with scaling quickly as a company can get tricky. It’s always an ongoing process with room for improvement, she says, but worth putting a great deal of attention towards.