Startup Culture Diaries: Making purpose part of a startup’s DNA


Welcome to a new monthly series from Foko CEO Marc Gingras on the importance of building a positive company culture. In this series, Gingras will use personal and professional examples that outline Foko’s journey of becoming a culture-first startup.

Towards the end of 2016, we had a few key members of the team leave the company. I had a hard time understanding what drove them to make the decision. You see, our sales were increasing by 15 to 20 percent every month, with break even being just a stone’s throw away. We were landing bigger and bigger customers, and our future was looking brighter than ever.

Before we even start talking about our product and features, we explain to customers why we exist, our guiding principles, and vision for the industry.

Why would someone decide to leave when the rocket just left the ground? What was I doing wrong? Why would they not want to stick around to enjoy the fruits of their hard work: higher salary; nicer weather; a better benefits plan. It just didn’t make any sense. To better understand the rationale, I conducted a few exit interviews. I concluded that I had failed to share with them my excitement about our future, and explain how each team member would be able to contribute to our success.

Reid Hoffman is quoted as saying, “Companies that understand the increasing emphasis of purpose in today’s professional landscape improve their ability to attract such employees and also their ability to retain them for longer periods of time.” Some interesting stats: according to the research firm Imperative, in the past three years, 85 percent of purpose-led companies experienced growth, while 58 percent of non-purpose-led companies showed a drop in revenue.

Communicating purpose seems like a vague concept. Starting to talk about purpose seems odd – but we figured that the best place to start was when someone first started interacting with the company, for one, as a customer through our sales process, and two, as a team member during the recruiting process.

Baking purpose into sales

During the sales process, we now begin by sharing our purpose with potential customers. Before we even start talking about our product and features, we explain to them why we exist, our guiding principles, and vision for the industry. This helps us find customers that are aligned with our approach and are willing to work with us shape the future of our industry.

Baking purpose in the recruiting process

Every team member was first exposed to the company through our recruiting process. Therefore, we actively looked at baking purpose as part of this process. Our job descriptions describe our company purpose and the purpose of their role. It is more than a description of the work they need to complete, but also how they will be able to shape and impact the business.

During the interview process, we openly talk about our vision and longer term plans — and specifically discuss with the candidate how they will be able to impact our direction.

Purpose can be baked in all our company activities – and it is when purpose will be pervasive across the organization that will we be able to attract and retain purposeful team members.


Marc Gingras

"Marc is a Canadian entrepreneur and angel investor. He is the CEO of Foko, a visual communication platform for retail teams. He sold his previous venture,, to BlackBerry in 2011. He is the Chairman of Sopar, a non-profit focused on sustainable development and helping the poor in rural India. Marc holds an MBA from INSEAD, a MASc in Management Sciences from the University of Waterloo and a BASc in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Ottawa

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