THAT’S exactly what Goh Ai Ching did after suffering from the “Monday morning blues”.
“I tried corporate life and I felt so demotivated,” she recalls, adding: “I decided if I ever got the chance to build my own company, it’d be a place people would love to work in.”
It would be six years later when she got that chance. Goh and her husband came up with the concept of Piktochart, a web app that makes it easy for users without graphic design experience to make professional-looking infographics.
Forbes magazine called it an infographic tool for “the graphically-challenged”, or for those who are simply in a time-crunch.
What started off as a two-person operation is today an operation with over 50 employees and 11 million users around the world.
Goh has distinguished herself as an entrepreneur. In 2014, she was a finalist for MIT Technology Review magazine’s 35 Innovators under 35.
As far as Goh is concerned, the importance of good corporate culture cannot be over-emphasised.
“Getting the culture right is key to our success,” she shares before confiding that it’s something she prioritises and, thus, spends a lot of time on.
HOW DID THE IDEA OF PIKTOCHART COME TO YOU?
The idea of starting my own business first came about because I was tired of corporate life. I was looking to work in a place with a really good culture, where ‘Monday morning blues’ would not exist.
I couldn’t seem to be able to find that in corporate life so I figured I’d have to build it myself. And that’s why I got into start-up life.
As for the idea of Piktochart itself, I was inspired by the concept of content marketing or inbound marketing. Where advertising was push, push, push, content marketing was the exact opposite. It was pull. And that, to me, was remarkable. I figured if content was going to be the future of marketing, people would need easy visual tools to create that content.
HOW BAD WAS YOUR ‘MONDAY MORNING BLUES’?
Really bad. I felt I had no soul, just working day-in and day-out. I was working extremely hard. I even worked weekends. I had zero work-life balance. I wasn’t growing as a person or as a worker. I didn’t find any fulfilment in what I was doing. I really felt this had to change. I had to do something to make it better.
WHAT WERE YOUR GUIDING PRINCIPLES IN FOSTERING A CORPORATE CULTURE?
I wanted Piktochart’s working environment to be the exact opposite of what I had experienced.
At Piktochart, family is important. I’m a mother myself now so I really emphasise on the importance of family and work-life balance. Relationships are also important. At Piktochart, colleagues aren’t just colleagues. Many of them are friends outside of work.
WHAT WOULD YOU SAY IS THE HARDEST ASPECT OF YOUR COMPANY’S CORPORATE CULTURE TO FOSTER?
I’d say radical candor. Radical candor is a hyped term but what it means is the courage to tell the truth.
Asians are not good at giving feedback. A company can only move forward when people are not afraid to give their opinions and work constructively towards changing things for the better.
BESIDES LEADING BY EXAMPLE, WHAT ELSE HAVE YOU DONE TO ENSURE THAT THE RIGHT CULTURE PERMEATES YOUR COMPANY?
Leadership by example is important but it’s not enough. I’ve hired a “people success” person who is super passionate about people and their growth and development. She helps people achieve their career aspirations. She helps resolve conflicts. You could say she’s the culture guardian of our organisation.
IN ORDER TO MAINTAIN A CERTAIN CULTURE, YOU NEED TO HIRE THE RIGHT TYPE OF PEOPLE. WHAT DO YOU LOOK FOR IN AN EMPLOYEE?
We look for seven core qualities. They must be humble, open, passionate, excellent, fun-loving, user-focused and loving.
IS IT EASY TO DETECT THESE THINGS IN PROSPECTIVE EMPLOYEES?
Some qualities are easy to detect. Humility, passion, excellence are all pretty easy to spot. Whether someone is a loving person is a lot harder to tell.
WHAT DO YOU DO IF SOMEONE OBVIOUSLY DOESN’T FIT INTO YOUR COMPANY’S CULTURE?
If someone severely violates our culture code or is a detractor who negatively influences others, we have to take action. If we don’t, people would leave. In the early days I didn’t have the courage to take action but the organisation suffered as a result. Today, I’m very aware of the importance of stemming destructive behaviour that can ruin what we’ve built up. So, we will take action.
CAN YOU NAME ANY OTHER MALAYSIAN COMPANY WHOSE CORPORATE CULTURE YOU ADMIRE?
I’d say Leaderonomics. The founder, Roshan Thiran, is a very sharp guy. He’s very people-centric. His whole team is extremely passionate and gung-ho. You can feel the energy bursting out of them. He’s obviously got the culture right for his people to feel that way.
WHY DON’T MORE MALAYSIAN COMPANIES EMPHASISE CULTURE?
I guess for many companies, especially start-ups, growth and achieving numbers are the most important things and I can understand that. But that’s not what I’m about. Yes, being profitable is important but I care about people and to me, creating a corporate culture where people can feel happy and fulfilled is most important. It plays to my strengths and my personality to focus on this.