Blog-it-sidebarOne of the questions I’m frequently asked, both on stage and off, is: “What has it been like to live through two acquisitions? Has it been difficult to preserve Pardot’s company culture as you grow?”

Two separate questions, but the answers are intertwined. When David Cummings and I founded Pardot in 2007, never even dreaming that it would someday become the leading marketing automation company that it is today, we purchased one of the cheapest domain names we could find ( cost us a whopping $7!) and quickly devised a unique hiring scheme that was either going to pay huge dividends, or bite us in the butt. Instead of focusing solely on a candidate’s experience and resume, we hired based on culture. Was the person self-starting? Were they supportive? Would they be a positive influence on others? If the answer was “yes” to all three questions, it was fairly likely that we would extend a job offer.

This (what some might consider unconventional) hiring process gave birth to a company full of driven, capable individuals who also happened to be some of the top talent in our field, and it wasn’t long before we began receiving accolades for the resulting company culture. From physical perks like scooters and ping pong tables to more intangible perks like an open-door policy with upper management, we worked hard to foster a culture that would help bring out our employees’ passion for what they do.

Fast forward to Pardot’s acquisition by ExactTarget in 2012, then fast forward again to 2013’s acquisition by Salesforce. In both cases, we were lucky to become a part of a company that placed an equal emphasis on culture, which isn’t often the case in enterprise software acquisitions. In fact, becoming a part of the Salesforce family has bolstered Pardot’s culture in a lot of ways. With access to more resources, improved benefits, stock options, and vacation time off, we’ve been able to offer more to our employees than we have in the past. And access to more resources means better service for our clients too, which is and always has been a top priority for our team.


Of course, there have been challenges to scaling our company culture through two acquisitions. The Pardot team has always viewed our culture as a competitive advantage, so it was important that we didn’t lose sight of that through all of the changes the company was going through. I’d like to share a few of the lessons that I’ve learned throughout this journey, in the hopes that other companies can grow and scale their culture just like we have:

Transparency is key.

When you go through an acquisition, it’s bound to be a bit of a whirlwind. Start-ups might be used to moving at a fast pace, but that gets amplified as your business grows. With so much going on — and so quickly — it’s important that upper management be as transparent as possible so that everyone stays on the same page. Listening to your employees thoughts and concerns becomes more crucial than ever as you begin attempting to scale your company culture. Never overlook the importance of employee forums and regular town hall meetings to gain feedback on how you’re doing.

You can’t lose sight of your core values.

This is a big one. No matter how big your company gets, your culture will always be defined by your people — not by perks like casual dress and free snacks. If you want to preserve that culture, you need to continue hiring people who uphold your company’s core values, whatever those may be. As David Cummings recently wrote on his blog, culture is never stagnant. It’s either strengthened or weakened by each new hire you bring on board.

Hold onto your traditions.

Naturally, as your company grows, some of the perks of being a small business will go away — but that doesn’t mean that you need to let go of all of the traditions that your employees have grown to love. In fact, after an in-office renovation was completed just a few months ago, we netted an upgraded ping pong room and a new room for our on-staff masseuse, not to mention a revival of the Atlanta street signs we’ve had hanging outside of each meeting room since we first founded Pardot. While these aren’t going to make or break an employee’s decision to work here, they are small ways to show them that culture is still one of our top priorities. My advice to you? Keep a list of the traditions that make you unique, and make a concerted effort to preserve them over time.

Growth is a learning process, and one that we’re very much still in the middle of at Pardot. From a small start-up to the leading marketing automation provider and part of the Salesforce family, our evolving company culture has been the cornerstone of what makes this company so great — and one that I’m proud to have been a part of for the past seven years.