How Emerging Companies Grow Without Ruining Their Culture

Meaghan Sullivan

Most small and midsize businesses chase every opportunity to grow. Once they hit their stride towards market dominance, the shared values and purpose that led to their success in the first place often gets lost. Some companies redirect their workplace culture before it’s too late; however, far too many break down so quickly that they ultimately fail no matter what they do.

According to Oxford Economics’ executive study “The Transformation Imperative for Small and Midsize Companies,” sponsored by SAP, the key to balancing culture and revenue growth is improving employee engagement, recruiting high-quality talent, and investing in digital skills. And these three capabilities should be prioritized ahead of strategies such as entering new markets, risk management, and mergers and acquisitions.

Occasionally, we come across a fast-growing company that refuses to forget its roots – and BlackLine is undoubtedly one of them. The emerging player in the cloud software market has grown at a pace that can only be described as “a foot on the gas pedal and not letting up” after going public in late 2016. Such success is excellent news in the boardroom, but it also brings a significant HR challenge – the need for processes, systems, and capabilities that deliver an employee experience that is engaging, empowering, accessible, and relevant.

BlackLine: Preserving workforce culture in times of exponential growth

BlackLine’s motivation for emphasizing the importance of the employee experience on par with business growth is simple. “Talent is the most valuable asset in your business. If you’re not maximizing that talent by giving them the best experience possible, opportunities are lost,” Renee Marino, vice president of Human Resources and Organizational Development at BlackLine, stated during her presentation at SAPPHIRE NOW.

After years of rapid growth and international expansion, BlackLine found itself in a situation where the workforce used disconnected systems and out-of-date tools. Its systems and tools were not scaling with the business and limited cohesive decision-making and action. To create a workforce culture that worked well together, the company needed to replace its duct-taped digital landscape with a cloud-based solution that empowered every employee.

Joining Marino on the stage, Ruth Richmond, director of Organizational Development at BlackLine, provided some insight into the best approach to rolling out such an implementation. “We started with the capabilities that we felt impacted our employees the most, rather than behind-the-scenes functions such as onboarding and recruiting,” she advised.

“Performance and goals, compensation management, learning, and continuous performance solutions strategically made sense to implement first. Our employees can apply these tools to their daily work lives the easiest and integrate them with their learning and growth experience,” continued Richmond. “After that is done, we will then move to include core HR processes, recruiting, onboarding, and benefits management.”

By creating a unified system that supports every aspect of the employee experience, BlackLine’s HR organization is delivering a value-added experience that supports individual, departmental, and company needs. “It’s one thing when the HR team recognizes the value of an interconnected system that reduces manual work and errors on sensitive and important data,” said Marino. “But for the organization to feel the impact of that total employee experience, that’s where we see it affect the bottom line.”

Turning the employee experience into a force for bottom-line growth

As BlackLine reminds us, workforce culture is an organic process that, when appropriately managed, delivers a commanding competitive advantage. Your employee numbers may increase. The pace of your operations may accelerate. Your revenue may grow. Your market reach, network, and product offerings may expand. But throughout every disruptive shift and nuanced change, culture must be preserved and scale to keep up with new customer and employee demands, market dynamics, and social concerns.

Prepare your growing business for digital transformation with strong technology to continually improve the total employee experience – from recruitment and reskilling to retention. Read the Oxford Economics’ executive study “The Transformation Imperative for Small and Midsize Companies,” sponsored by SAP.

For a first-hand view into SAP solutions for small and midsize businesses, visit

Meaghan Sullivan

About Meaghan Sullivan

Meaghan Sullivan is the Head of General Business and Global Partner Marketing at SAP. In this role, she is tasked with accelerating awareness and consideration in the Small Medium Enterprise (SME) segment for SAP as well as global partner revenue through channel marketing and commercial sales practices. Sullivan focuses on Demand Generation activities to provide SAP partners with innovative programs, campaigns and resources that enable them to more efficiently market their SAP solutions and services.