How 6 Companies Truly Live Up to Their “Mission-Driven” Cultures

To be truly mission-driven, organizations need both alignment and excitement.

Written by Cathleen Draper
Published on Nov. 09, 2022
How 6 Companies Truly Live Up to Their “Mission-Driven” Cultures
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Legend has it that when President John F. Kennedy visited NASA’s headquarters in the early 1960s, he encountered a janitor mopping the floor and asked what he was doing.

According to the story, the janitor responded: “I’m helping put a man on the moon.”

NASA’s world revolves around exploring space and uncovering the unknowns of our universe. And whether or not the story about the janitor is true, it reveals something important about NASA: a deep alignment among all employees behind a singular mission.

Every company can — and does — have a mission. But building a mission-driven culture requires employees to be excited about that mission and to live it in their work.

Austin company Skimmer is on a mission to transform the pool and spa service industry. Employees live that mission by listening to customers who are already on a tech-savvy journey while watching out for those still clutching their pen, paper and envelopes of cash. 

Skimmer has translated its mission to modernize into new solutions and a strong education component. For example, many of its customers have been asking for a native payments solution, and now, Skimmer is hiring new team members to encourage existing customers to adopt the solution. 

“In the age of Venmo, Zelle and Cash App, part of modernizing the pool industry is enabling people to get paid faster,” said Flavia de la Fuente, director of operations.

At Miro, mission-driven looks like reflection. Miro helps companies develop “the next big thing” with a digital whiteboard solution. And as Mironeers develop their own next big thing, they take time to look at the past so they can improve the future.

In retrospectives, team members can reflect on the success and failures of a given project, initiative or event. 

“We believe an effective ‘retro’ is one that comes from a place of empathy and respect, goes deep, and finishes with specific action steps that our teams can take in order to drive positive change and achieve more in the next iteration,” Head of People Hollie Castro said. “When we involve Mironeers in the co-creation of our products from ideation to design to pilot, we get outputs that resonate more profoundly across our organization.”

Built In Austin sat down with Castro and de la Fuente, plus leaders from Bonterra, ESO, Self Financial and Chipper, to find out how they encourage their teams to align behind and contribute to their missions.


Hollie Castro
Head of People • Miro

Miro is a collaborative whiteboard platform that helps distributed teams work together to ideate during brainstorming sessions or workshops. 


Miro’s mission: Our mission is to empower teams to create the next big thing. Miro enables remote, in-office, and hybrid teams to communicate and collaborate across formats, tools, channels and time zones — without the constraints of physical location, meeting space and whiteboards.


As a leader, how do you translate Miro’s mission into specific actions or goals for your team? 

The people organization exists to bring Miro’s vision to life inside of the company. This means cultivating our most important and expensive asset: our people. 

From the beginning to the end of the employee lifecycle, we are charged with creating, curating and iterating an amazing experience. This results in enabling other companies’ teams to create the next big thing and ultimately make a positive change in the world.

Doing this effectively means designing from a user-centric mindset, constantly reprioritizing based on impact and removing friction from our daily work. Making work easier is part of our goal. 

As a leader, I also lean into a learning mindset that is rooted in curiosity, experimentation and iteration, and I encourage everyone in my organization to do the same. These traits are core to my DNA and to Miro’s culture. I firmly believe that being transparent and sharing constructive feedback enables us to learn, deliver impact and achieve success as a team.


What aspect of Miro’s culture or values best reflects its mission?

We start with interviewing and hiring. It’s easy to look for skills and competencies without paying attention to hiring for our values, but this is core to who we bring through our doors. Our values guide our mission, shape our culture and influence how we work together to create impact. We play as a team to win the world. We focus on impact and make it happen. We practice empathy to gain insight. And we learn, grow and drive change. 



The Bonterra team poses in matching t-shirts


Sarah Bain
Senior Director of Account Management • Bonterra

Bonterra is a social good software company that connects organizations to their supporters and constituents. Bonterra’s case management, corporate social good and philanthropy, and nonprofit fundraising and engagement solutions help nonprofit professionals work smarter.


Bonterra’s mission: Our purpose at Bonterra is to power those who power social impact. We’re dedicated to delivering technology to the unsung heroes behind the scenes of social good organizations. That tech makes it easier, more efficient and more effective for them to create impact. Bonterra works with nonprofits, the public sector, corporations, philanthropists, and foundations and people like case managers, program directors, volunteers, as well as grants and giving managers.


As a leader, how do you translate Bonterra’s mission into specific actions or goals for your team? 

I’m incredibly lucky and have the best team. We’re stronger and more powerful together sharing one goal. When working in unison, we’ve reached unseen milestones and accomplishments.

The outcomes are reflected through the communities our nonprofit organizations serve. For example, one organization we work with provided a record number of service donations during Covid-19 that otherwise wouldn’t have been possible.


What aspect of Bonterra’s culture or values best reflects your company mission? 

We try to reflect all the company values as much as possible. We have team volunteer days, which are an example of Bonterra’s mission in action. During this time, the team can step away from work for the day to volunteer at an organization of their choice. Most recently, one of our account managers organized a team volunteer day at the Texas Food Bank. The team helped to sort more than 2,700 pounds of food to help the fight against hunger in central Texas. 



Sean Leung
Director of Product Management, Hospital Applications • ESO

ESO’s user-friendly software uses data, tech and research to meet the needs of EMS agencies, fire departments and hospitals. 


ESO’s mission: Our mission is to make a difference and to improve community health and safety through the power of data.


As a leader, how do you translate ESO’s mission into specific actions or goals for your team? 

I correlate our mission to the “why” behind each product enhancement initiative. For example, enhancing humanitarian device exemptions with enterprise master patient index technology will significantly increase the overall match rate between EMS and hospital records. Applying code maps to outcome dispositions has standardized the values coming from disparate hospital systems. These two initiatives provide our customers with a larger and higher quality data pool to gain deeper insights into developing performance improvement and patient safety action plans.


What aspect of ESO’s culture or values best reflects your company mission?

Our core value of “passion" and our “start from the heart” principle both reflect our mission. We have quarterly interdisciplinary meetings across departments to discuss what’s going well, what’s getting in the way and “even better if…” topics. These meetings showcase the dedication each person has to collaborating and making the products and services we provide the best for our customers.



Elizabeth O’Connor
Vice President, Operations • Self Financial

Self Financial’s credit builder account and other financial products help people establish and build their credit. 


Self Financial’s mission: We believe everyone should have the ability to improve their financial future. We exist to enable people to build credit, build savings and reach their goals.


As a leader, how do you translate Self’s mission into specific actions or goals for your team? 

We keep our customer’s needs at the forefront of everything we do. In operations, we aim to resolve customer requests at the first point of contact and balance accuracy with speed to resolution. Our customer service colleagues have an open forum to bring ideas and solutions to customer problems. 

We listen to our customers’ needs and put action behind them. We share customer feedback with the larger team and continually evaluate rules and update our processes so our customers can reach their financial goals.  


What aspect of Self’s culture or values best reflects your mission? 

Self values the unique perspectives of colleagues and customers (and some of us are both). Leaders at Self encourage team members to raise their hands, offer solutions to complex problems, and center the customer needs to build better products and enhance existing ones.  We use customer feedback to evolve agent training to focus on the understanding and resolution of each customer’s unique situation.



The Skimmer team snaps a selfie


Flavia de la Fuente
Director of Operations • Skimmer

Skimmer’s platform helps pool service professionals optimize their routes, adjust schedules, track chemical readings and dosages, create to-do and shopping lists, hone the customer service experience, track recurring jobs and access customer info — all to efficiently increase their bottom line. 


Skimmer’s mission: Our mission is to modernize and transform the pool and spa service and repair industry. That’s right, the pool industry: a surprisingly large vertical that’s hidden in plain sight. Our customers are incredibly hard-working small- to medium-sized business owners. We’re here to change their lives with simple, easy-to-use pool service software that helps them get organized, streamline their operations and grow their businesses. We love our customers, and we’re committed to building something that makes their lives easier and, dare we say, more fun.


As a leader, how do you translate Skimmer’s mission into specific actions or goals for your team? 

Our customer-facing teams have the latitude to go above and beyond to support our customers. A significant number of our customers are moving from pen, paper and consumer tools like Gmail to software. We’ve discovered that we aren’t just showing them the possibilities with Skimmer, but with technology in general. We’re also focused on transforming a tight-knit industry, and our reputation as a trusted teammate to the pool pro is a critical part of our go-to-market strategy. Skimmer team members have explained everything from new Excel and Google Sheets techniques to network connectivity issues.


What aspect of Skimmer’s culture or values best reflects your company mission? 

Our customers are humble, hardworking and they like to have fun winning, just like we do. Everybody has their reasons for coming to Skimmer, and we’re all protective of the special culture we have and are determined to make it the best place we’ve ever worked. We’re small, and we have a lot to do. The most important thing we do is thoughtfully and intentionally allocate finite resources: Our own time and energy. The most important way this plays out? We say no. We avoid chasing shiny objects. All of us — from our CEO to our engineers, our customer support team and our marketing managers — raise ideas, discuss them, debate them and prioritize appropriately. When we have to put things on the backburner, we look each other in the eyes and trust that we are prioritizing the three most important things at any given time. When you have the ability to do 1,000 things to modernize and transform an industry, you have to start with three.



Sarah Mayer
Head of Brand Marketing • Chipper

Forty-five million Americans have student loan debt totaling $1.75 trillion. Chipper’s platform enables them to discover and enroll in repayment and forgiveness programs to chip away their debt.  


Chipper’s mission: Our mission is to inspire and empower people to pursue a chipper life free from student debt.

Borrowers want to be financially secure. To do that, they need a streamlined student loan plan, but they don’t have the clarity to make confident decisions in an ever-changing landscape. We believe borrowers shouldn’t have to close the gap of financial literacy and institutional negligence on their own. We understand the innate biases that borrower’s face, and we provide transparent solutions. 

Through a secure onboarding process and simple app experience, we meet borrowers where they are to ensure they don’t lose the financial progress they’ve made and provide free solutions that empower them to be free from student debt faster and live the lifestyle they deserve.


As a leader, how do you translate Chipper’s mission into specific actions or goals for your team? 

We look at every stage of our customer journey to ensure we are improving our solutions and solving the problems that have the most impact on everyday borrowers. 

Setting company-wide objectives that enable us to achieve our mission and business strategy is key. The fun and challenging part is ensuring goals are broad enough to empower creative thinking but specific enough for every team member to make a direct line to them in the work that they do. 

Our mission is at the forefront of everything we do. With specific engagement metrics and a clear understanding of our “why,” we can make landing page and drip campaign optimizations with conviction to improve the funnel and help more users. Likewise, we can test growth campaigns against cost per action goals effectively when our campaign messaging and targeting is narrowed in on our core users.


What aspect of Chipper’s culture or values best reflects your company mission? 

Transparency and empowerment are key values of our company culture that inspire us to thrive as a team and live our mission. Our director of media production, Alyssa Esquivel, recently brought a quote to the team that has been a foundational guide to living these principles: “Assume zero knowledge and infinite wisdom.”

It’s not about dumbing it down; objective communication without assumptions is the key to untapping greater potential. This is not always an easy task, but it’s a cornerstone to team engagement at Chipper. 

Finally, millions of Americans are seeking clarity around how to tackle their student loans amidst misinformation, misguidance, scams and constant changes. By building clear, transparent student debt solutions, we are empowering borrowers to become debt free faster.


Responses have been edited for length and clarity. Images via listed companies and Shutterstock.

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