Being an entrepreneur can feel lonely at times. That’s why shortly after the idea of BlaBlaCar was born, Fred started talking about it to anyone and everyone who would listen. He started attending regular entrepreneurial meetups in Paris where he would bounce his ideas off others and receive advice and inspiration. Fred then used BlaBlaCar in all classes throughout his MBA programme at INSEAD Business School to further develop the strategy. By sharing and learning with others, he was able to gain time and implement a lot of good practices. Upon meeting co-founders Francis Nappez and Nicolas Brusson, during one of the entrepreneurial meetups and at INSEAD respectively, he realized that each of them brought complementary skills to the table. It felt absolutely right to share the direction of the company with them. Sharing and learning together would make them a stronger team.
When BlaBlaCar started embarking on a journey of fast growth, the founders were conscious of encouraging a collaborative culture of sharing and set out to build an environment which allowed for continuous learning. At BlaBlaCar, the “Share More, Learn More” value encourages all employees to share as much knowledge as they can through a wide variety of tools and activities.
Transparency benefits everyone
In the early days when BlaBlaCar had just a handful of employees, it was easy to meet with everyone on a daily basis. Now with over 550 employees spread internationally over several offices, it gets more difficult. BlaBlaCar works hard to implement transparency in the workplace and believe in a culture of sharing that benefits everyone. The founders are a big fan of benchmarking good ideas to avoid re-inventing the wheel. If they find out that a company is doing some form of internal process, and they like the sound of it, they’ll implement it immediately.
BlaBlaTalk, the weekly talk, is a prime example of this. After Fred heard about the idea through a fellow entrepreneur friend, the concept was put in place the following week when there were just 15 employees. It’s been part of the BlaBlaCar culture ever since and is a perfect example of how something is scalable. With all employees in attendance (either physically or through the online broadcast), a different team takes the spotlight each week and gives an update on their work, org structure, what’s happening and their plans for the next weeks. With their presentations peppered with gifs and animations, they talk about success as well as things which failed. Based on the implicit assumption that this pool of talented people always try their best then if and when they fail, everyone can learn something from it. As the presentation comes to a close, questions come from everyone and everywhere, including the local teams across the globe who are watching the live broadcast from their offices. It gets people sharing, it gets people listening and it gets people learning.
Then there’s International Week. Every six weeks, all local Country Managers come to Paris for a week to discuss plans and share best practices. Strongly pushed by Nicolas in order to synchronize all international action, it keeps the transparency alive between country teams and the centralized teams. Furthermore, an initiative called BlaBlaSwap gives team members the opportunity to spend a week working in one of the many international offices from Sao Paulo to Moscow.
Embracing and evangelizing transparency
The “Share More, Learn More” ethic comes to life in many ways at BlaBlaCar. With several new employees starting at BlaBlaCar each week, it’s necessary to onboard them in a way that gets them acquainted to the business quickly and ensures that they have a good understanding of BlaBlaCar’s culture, especially as they’ll be the ones building the brand and culture in the future. Referred to as newbies, all new employees are invited to a special onboarding week in Paris. Here they spend a few days together, sharing social moments through teambuilding activities, and learning more about BlaBlaCar through specific team training sessions. Fred makes sure to join each onboarding session to meet new recruits and gives them the inside story of BlaBlaCar. Laure Wagner, BlaBlaCar’s first ever employee and today’s Culture Captain, conjures up stories from the early days of working with Fred and Francis in Fred’s living room and reminds everyone of BlaBlaCar’s humble beginnings that continue to embody BlaBlaCar’s culture.
Internal tools are critical to keep people sharing and learning. Based on the concept of Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs), BlaBlaLearn is a series of onboarding videos by employees for employees which makes knowledge more available and accessible. Each team at BlaBlaCar, from Finance to Marketing to Product, record themselves giving a fun and serious insight into what they do. It gets the newbies up to speed in a few hours and saves them months of trying to understand how BlaBlaCar works. Likewise it also saves the heads of departments from repeating their same presentation time and time again. And when things change and evolve – which they often do – they can easily switch on the cameras and record a new presentation.
BlaBlaWiki is another internal favourite. It’s a team collaboration software which allows all employees to share everything they do, whether it’s a success or failure, so that other teams can learn from it. Each team has it’s own section with detailed pages and it’s open for everyone to browse and digest. Moreover, there is BlaBlaShare; the internal blog where everyone is free to share an update about anything from a new functionality to a new country launch. It gives great visibility of what’s going on in each market and within each team. As for day-to-day internal communication, slack is most commonly used. A general BlaBlaCar slack channel keeps all 550 employees updated, engaged and often entertained. It gives everyone a voice and allows them to stay connected with each other.
Sharing comes in all forms
A favourite moment for all employees is the BlaBlaBreak, an annual 3-day trip where everyone from BlaBlaCar gets together and celebrates their collective energy. In 2016, everyone met in the south of France where they spent an unforgettable weekend in the sun taking part in sport activities and hosting their very own talent show, the BlaBlaShow. A true experience which brought people together, it highlights the importance of team building in an ever evolving workplace.
BlaBlaBreakfast takes place once a week and brings together all employees from all different teams. This is followed by a live Tech Demo in the afternoon, where all new product features are presented to everyone. There’s also BlaBlaFaces, a web app that helps you learn all the names of everyone in the company. There’s BlaBlaLunch, an app which encourages networking between colleagues by organising random lunches with people from various teams. There’s even a section on the internal blog named BlaBlaWords, which explains all of BlaBlaCar’s acronyms and is continuously updated as new ones appear.
Staying connected in today’s world
To learn from others outside of the company, BlaBlaCar employees regularly go on field trips to meet the people behind the success stories of Silicon Valley and beyond. From Facebook to Google to LinkedIn and many more, the team are constantly engaged in sharing best practices, knowledge and technologies to further evolve the ecosystem. After all, living in the real world means being an active citizen in making it a better place. The beauty about field trips is that inside BlaBlaCar, they live on. When a team gets back after a trip, they share their experience and learnings with the rest of the company through a series of talks and articles, as well as convert all their energy and great ideas into achievable goals and projects.
Occasionally, influential entrepreneurs and guest speakers from hot startups visit BlaBlaCar to give insights into how things run at their own firm. These talks are informal and often take the popular format of a fire-side chat, giving employees the chance to ask questions. Moreover, the sessions are recorded and archived for employees to replay at any time.
Truth breaks down many walls
Creating a culture of transparency which promotes proactive sharing is key to building a responsive organization, but it’s also what holds a company together. Sharing encourages the mutual understanding and respect of each other’s contributions to the success of the company, and the synchronization of all teams, resulting in a constructive work environment. It helps in erasing curiosity about what the other team is working on. It helps people to understand the why and the need for a specific project and puts it in a greater perspective.
As Fred likes to say, learning can be likened to three different speeds in life. First up, there’s neutral gear in which everything is idle and no progress is made. When you start learning from your own mistakes, you move up to first gear. And finally, when you learn from mistakes of others, that’s when you really progress. When you get people talking and sharing their failures and knowledge, you open up a network for new ideas. It revolutionizes the way in which people learn and evolve, both individually and collectively as a team. And the result? Everyone succeeds faster, together.