At sennder, our culture is shaped by principles that have been part of our founding mindset enabling us to distinguish ourselves from others: deep customer orientation, data-driven solutions, entrepreneurial thinking, team spirit and a constant strive to learn and push forward.
Five years later, our ever-growing team still lives and breathes these values, which have also played a crucial role in what we like to call sennder spirit.
From day one we have recognized the importance of developing a strong company culture, which embodies our values and strengthens the sennder spirit. Therefore, it is key to make sure all employees are trucking in the same direction. sennder ensures that the whole team and new joiners embody sennder’s values and jointly follow the mission by its inhouse developed academy.
Taking a lead on this role is Saskia, Head of Culture at sennder. Saskia was one of the first five employees to join the team back in 2015. Starting off in a small office space, she has seen our company grow from a project that at times seemed impossible to now being Europe’s leading digital freight forwarding company.
We had an insightful conversation with Saskia where we talked about challenges, mergers and how to bring an idea to life.
Check out our conversation where she shares her insights on seeing sennder outgrow its childhood shoes and continuing to grow its strong company culture.
If you would have to describe sennder in three words, what would that be?
I would say, fast in the sense that everything is usually happening very fast, head spinning sometimes. I would also say family - for me, especially after being here for five years some of my colleagues have literally become family to me. Finally, adventurous - there's always something exciting going on, that sometimes comes even very unexpectedly.
What were the key challenges that you saw being one of the first employees and seeing sennder grow from a small startup to now be a growth stage company and internationally active?
In the beginning it took some time for us to really gain traction. The first challenge was just to kind of keep going, to be patient and to just push also through the tougher times. And then it just all happened very fast - the last five years for me feel more like a few months!
I think major challenges for companies at this stage is the adaptability that is needed in such a fast-paced environment. What I mean by that is that you must be very open-minded and flexible in order to manage this growth. You can be going from managing yourselves to managing one person to managing five people to 10 people, who are themselves managing people in a very short amount of time. To be able to handle this efficiently and to get the most out of the team requires a very high level of agility, integrity and adaptability. In some ways there is almost a process of reinventing your mindset every time as the company goes through those different phases.
A more classic challenge has been communication. For example, I think transparency is so different for five people compared to 400. Sometimes you forget the magnitude of that and you have to be constantly aware when informing and engaging people so that the whole team understands what direction we are going in.
Regarding my team, we now onboard 20 to 30 people a month through our Academy program. On top of this, we make sure that every new starter feels welcomed and involved right from the start and has the right resources, knowledge and tools he or she needs in order to contribute to the team from day one.
From there, we then make sure that within that process, they also understand the culture of the company. This is important because after a certain stage this understanding is not going to be transferred automatically by hearsay. Therefore, it's all about making sure that everyone knows what's important to us, understands and embodies our values in order to encompass our sennder culture.
Tell us about the onboarding as the first touchpoint for developing the sennder spirit and the spirit more broadly?
I believe our onboarding process is super strong and efficient. It's important to make sure that everything holds the same standard. I'm very happy that everyone who joins, starts in a strong position which they are then able to transfer to the team. The feedback from our new starters has been super positive, especially in the last few months battling the remote onboarding situation.
When we discussed establishing a culture team and me leading the team as Head of Culture, I was a bit hesitant. I have not really heard about this kind of position before. I did my LinkedIn benchmarks and searched just to see if I could find anything that visualized a bit more what the whole role would demand from me. Back then I could hardly find anything that was really dedicated to culture only. Interestingly, if you do the same search again now, you can find more and more culture managers and teams. It also shows that we were one of the early ones not only to recognize this need but to implement it as well.
Our company is very people focused. Our greatest intention is to make people feel comfortable and engaged to give their best. I would also say that sennder culture is very fast-paced. As I said, it's very challenging (in a positive way), meaning that people really do have the environment where they can bring in their full skill set and develop on that. We have a strong entrepreneurial culture - people who have that mindset, will be able to thrive with us.
Furthermore, we take our work extremely seriously, but we also know how to celebrate the achievements and milestones in a company-wide way. I think a clear example of overarching sender culture and how we embody our values was through the recent celebration of our fifth anniversary. Every office participated and showed in their own unique way how they are connected to our company spirit.
Let’s talk about the merger with Everoad. How did it go and how was the integration for you?
We are carrying out the integration in a very structured, and conscious way with defined milestones and KPIs which also means that it is all happening very quickly.
From day one we started “running’ which I think is an important part of the sennder DNA - full speed ahead. Everyone has been incredibly positive and with merging both teams we make sure to create the common understanding and baseline of how we want to work together as one company. All in all, the integration so far has been very good. I think there's still a lot of work to do but I’m sure that it will be a great success. This is thanks to both teams who put a lot of hard work and enthusiasm into it.
It's been fun and inspiring to embark on this journey and I’m looking forward to many more years of joint adventours, development and growth.