This CEO’s Top 3 Secrets To Scaling His Startup’s Work Culture

Source | FastCompany : BY JENNA ABDOU

Munjal Shah’s company was acquired by Google in 2010. The deal was finished on a Wednesday but couldn’t close until Friday. As Shah recalls, when he asked why, he was told that Larry Page still needed to review the team’s applications, an activity for which Page set aside his Thursdays. Despite Google employing over 12,000 people at the time, says Shah, Page still reviewed the applications of anyone Google was seriously considering hiring.

This was a turning point for Shah, one that impacts how he leads his current company, Health IQ, a life insurance startup that finds lower rates for health-conscious people. “Conventional wisdom about scaling is that you have to trade intimacy for efficiency,” Shah recently shared with me on my podcast Beyond the Headline. “As much as you need to operationalize your business processes, you have to choose a few that you are deliberately not going to scale.” It’s those areas, in Shah’s view, that let leaders of fast-growing companies keep their cultures strong when it matters most.


Hiring is one of the first things founders begin to delegate, and Shah was no exception. While running his past two companies, Shah found that the day he let go of hiring, the culture changed. So with Health IQ he’s taken a different approach.

“There is the common theory that A players hire A players and B players hire C players. But leaders can’t just focus on hiring the right first group and expect they’ll maintain the momentum. A players will hire C players if they’re under pressure to scale quickly,” Shah shared in a later conversation. That’s not an indictment of his hiring team, he believes–it’s just a reality of rapid growth. “The faster a company is scaling, the more the CEO should be involved in hiring to ensure the quality of decisions is not only being maintained but elevated,” he believes. Nearly four years in, with over 150 employees, Shah still interviews close to 90% of Health IQ candidates.

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