How one company fuels its growth through a culture of empowerment, appreciation, and continuous learning

Many businesses today know the value of a vibrant and dynamic company culture when it comes to attracting and retaining the best talent. Company culture is how millennials, currently the biggest demographic in the job market, decide who to work for. It influences employee happiness and productivity. And it is difficult to get right.

Only few companies can truly claim to do this well. One prime example is 2X – a B2B digital marketing specialist and pioneer in the Marketing as a Service (MaaS) space – headquartered in Philadelphia, USA with a delivery hub in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Across its social media channels and on its website, personal growth and professional development are recurring themes. From blogs to Instagram posts, employees are willing and active advocates for the company.

“At 2X, there are more opportunities to grow and earn a promotion than other companies,” says Siew Mee Yong, 2X Managing Director and Chief People Officer, who oversees the company’s operations at the Kuala Lumpur office. “Here, the more clients we get, the more opportunities there are to learn new things and contribute. We believe that the best way to prove you really understand what you are doing is when you can explain and coach another person to do exactly what you do.”

“Every new hire at 2X kicks off their learning with structured learning modules over the course of several weeks and is paired with a senior buddy who will show them the ropes. This includes making sure they understand their role, providing helpful feedback, consistently steering them toward improvement, all in all, setting them up for success. The new hires learn from taking on the more basic work on client accounts, while the seniors training them now have the time and capacity to do more advanced work and think of new ways to create more value for their clients. Producing more impact and seeing more positive effects of your work on a client’s marketing, on the client’s team, on others in the company, can be tremendously rewarding—knowing your work has meaning and purpose,” adds Yong.

Constant learning as a way of life
The B2B marketing talent pool is small, even in more mature B2B markets like the US and Europe. Even rarer are talent who are familiar and have expertise in B2B marketing technology because certification and access to these tools require heavier financial investment.

These factors mean that if a company like 2X wanted to grow, they would at some point need to look to different industries for the calibre of talent they wanted.

“We have taken the best certification programs from B2B tech platforms and combined it with our in-house training programs. What was borne out of necessity is now deeply ingrained in our culture of constant learning. Today, we have a strong track-record of hiring people from engineering, finance, and math, among others and turning them into B2B marketers,” reveals Yong. “What a lot of people do not realize is that there are aspects of B2B marketing that deal heavily with technology, processes, and data. Our strength is figuring out ways to connect these together,”

“We have always believed that diversity is a strength, and we take chances with people,” she adds.

Taking chances with people has paid off in spades. Barely five years since its inception in 2017, 2X has grown its workforce from 10 to more than 400 employees, boasting a 105% compound annual revenue growth rate (CAGR) on annual recurring revenue from 2018 to 2022. This dynamic growth earned 2X a spot among the top 20% on the prestigious Inc. 5000 list for two consecutive years. 2X also currently sits at No. 100 on Financial Times’ The Americas’ Fastest-Growing Companies 2022. The company has also amassed several notable awards and accolades, including the 2021 Diverse and Inclusive Employer Award by Startup Weekly, and most recently, the Crown Accreditation for the 2022 Best Employer Brand by Best Employer Brand Accreditation & Awards.

“In order to systematically support our people, we established a Centre of Excellence (COE) for each function. Each function COE is led by a Principal or Lead, who oversees the design and implementation of training and mentorship programs. We also have an internal consultancy arm that collates the latest and greatest from 2X and the industry, to form the 2X best practices that we then deploy across different clients. The intel gathered generates new knowledge and know-how, which in turn creates new materials for training and the improvement of our people. This is to ensure our people continue to grow and our clients get the best ideas from 2X,” explains Yong.

She adds: “2X does not believe in hoarding knowledge where it remains in the minds of people in management, but rather using this knowledge to empower employees with the skills to enable them to effectively cross-collaborate between teams and promote knowledge sharing. We emphasize working as ‘One Team’—a 2X core value—through the sharing of knowledge and information as the basis of growth.”

New clients are seen as more than just good for the company’s bottom line. More clients mean more opportunities and exposure for its people to learn new things and contribute. As 2X employees upskill, they can move on to bigger roles and at the same time mentor their newer colleagues. Knowledge transfer is a key aspect of career advancement, and the company has a huge virtual library of learning resources built by its employees for employees. It would take conscientious effort for any employee to go six months without acquiring a new skill or knowledge.

Another huge part of 2X’s strong positive culture is the celebration of success. Every month, an hour is dedicated to celebrating new promotions, during which the employees’ stories of struggle, growth, and achievements are shared. This, combined with the sharing of knowledge and mutual support contributes to constant learning as a way of life in 2X.

An enriching employee experience that goes beyond borders
To encourage further growth and exposure among its people, 2X established the International Rotation Program (IRP). Employees from its delivery centre in KL can apply to spend two months at the company’s headquarters in the US to work on special projects directly with 2X CEO Domenic Colasante.

“The US office is where they can be closer to our clients and be more exposed to the commercial day-to-day operations since our Sales and Customer Office is located there. They get the opportunity to visit clients and be part of larger strategic conversations with the Chief Customer Officer. They also get to be much closer to the sales planning activities. Each participant in the program will own and lead a special project that includes taking advantage of the closer connection with technology partners in the US on intent-driven marketing, PR awareness initiatives, and new service enablement,” explains Yong.

The IRP is also an opportunity for cultural exposure, in that participants are given the space and time to travel and enjoy new experiences.

“Some of these new experiences include attending their first baseball game, watching a monster truck rally, jogging in Central Park in New York City, watching a Broadway show and attending a music concert. We feel these experiences can be not only enriching, but also allow our employees to form closer relationships with their teammates and colleagues in the US,” Yong adds.

It is no surprise then that 2X received an impressive 86% rating from its employees in The Best Employer Brand Accreditation survey. 2X scored high marks across the board, particularly in areas that promote employee wellness and work-life balance, employee engagement, and continuous learning. The company has certainly invested its money, time, and energy in all the right places: creating a positive environment and nurturing a culture of learning and appreciation.

By ensuring the growth of its people, 2X has secured its own growth as well. And right now, the goal is to achieve a headcount of 500 by the end of 2022 and doubling this figure to 1,000 by the end of 2023 to support its growing list of clients. There are talks of setting up more remote delivery operations. Now that the company is in hypergrowth mode, the challenge would be in maintaining this positive company culture as it gets bigger.

So, what’s next? Where does this thriving start-up see itself in the next five years?

“We would be a common household name since we created a new industry category (MaaS). We would be leading that category and in doing so create a slew of new job categories for Malaysians. We would have produced a new breed of marketing professionals with knowledge to helm the big jobs in well establish companies, and they would be versatile enough to lead start-ups too. 2Xers would be highly sought-after talent,” says Yong.

“We would be the known influencer in the B2B marketing industry, contributing our point of view and thought leadership on how to solve certain issues that plague marketing leaders. From how to navigate the conversation with your CEO to providing advisory to marketing technology use and adoption for maximum impact. It would be interesting to see if our other ideas to spin out sister companies that provide training on B2B marketing and B2B advisory would be realised. That would be fun to see.”

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