How to build a company culture in dynamic market

8 September, 2023
How to build a company culture in dynamic market | News | Pause Awards
George Hedon, founder and CEO, Pause Fest & Awards
George Hedon
8 September, 2023

Glean insights from top industry leaders as they dissect the intricacies of building a resilient company culture in today’s dynamic market. From flexibility to co-creation, discover the strategies that truly make a difference.

In a recent Pause Fest online panel discussion, the very last in BREAK-THROUGH Sessions series, we had the privilege of diving deep into the realm of company culture with three industry stalwarts. Penelope Shell, the CPO of OMD Australia, Ashwin Ramachandran, the dynamic CEO of Sapyen, and Daryl Tinworth from Shift Recruitment, shared their pearls of wisdom. Let’s unpack their insights.

“Add-to, Not Fit-in” Culture
Daryl Tinworth from Talent Acquisition at Shift weighed in on the current scenario, stating, “Over the past three years, we have realised that being open to hiring people who may be slightly different or approach things in a unique way can bring valuable perspectives to our company. It’s crucial to not be afraid of individuals who may operate differently from your company structure. This diversity can lead to interesting angles when addressing problems and finding solutions. Ultimately, it can help break away from a homogenous way of thinking and make your business more progressive.

While we often use words like “progressive” and “inclusive,” it’s essential to put these concepts into practice. Actively seeking individuals who can contribute to your culture, rather than just fitting in, is the key to achieving these goals.”

People, Culture and Brand Purpose
Penny Shell emphasised the changing aspirations of today’s workforce. “They want to leave an impact, whether it’s on the culture they’re working for or through a side hustle. We need to lean into that, hiring people who can help shape our business, filling the gaps we might not even see yet.” This approach underscores the importance of flexibility and adaptability in the hiring process.

Penny adds, “I have been functioning without certain roles for a long time, which has personally affected my work hours. However, it is important to ensure that the fit is right and to have a clear idea of the values you want to bring into the brand.

And we collectively discuss flexibility, but the guidelines are generally to try and agree on two days that the entire team can come in, or to choose a location for a group outing or meeting. It doesn’t have to be something expensive. We could simply go and sit in the State Library in Melbourne and have a session there together.”

Financing and Hiring in Early Startup
Ashwin provided a candid perspective on the challenges startups face, especially in the Australian market. “Capitalised pre-seed and seed-stage companies will start to hedge their bets more on experience, hire more senior people, and set aggressive targets over the next few months.

This is because it is becoming more difficult to raise more capital without a serious demonstration of outcomes. Broadly speaking, we are also seeing that a smaller pool of founders are raising a larger amount of capital, but specifically for pre-seed and seed rounds. However, this approach definitely has its problems. One of them is maintaining a growing evaluation over time. Additionally, it is important to demonstrate capital efficiency, which is the balance between growth and profitability metrics. All of this inevitably translates to one thing: hiring strong operators and hoping they know what they’re doing.

Think of where you want your company to be in two years and hire the trailblazers who’ll pave the way.” This forward-thinking approach is especially crucial given the financial constraints and uncertainties startups face.

Recruitment in Australia’s Volatile Market
Daryl also touched upon the challenges in the current recruitment landscape. “Redundancy has become common. Employers need to adhere to their company values, especially during tough times. Transparency, honesty, and communication are key. Employees aren’t oblivious; they read between the lines. Owning the situation is crucial to prevent damaging the company’s reputation.”

When hiring, it’s crucial to ensure you’re doing so for the right reasons and have the necessary resources to support new hires. In the startup world, where much is done in isolation, it’s beneficial to think beyond traditional recruitment methods, seeking connections and second opinions. The current job market is saturated with candidates, many of whom have faced redundancy. Despite their skills and qualifications, some are struggling to find roles, leading them to potentially settle for positions that might not be the perfect fit, which creates new problems. Don’t just think about the linear way to recruit, think both vertical and horizontal.

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Category tracks

The Culture track seeks entries that exemplify the development of an inclusive and collaborative workplace culture, crucial for organisational success and growth. Submissions should illustrate transformative strategies implemented across core business functions, reflecting expertise, leadership, and a clear vision. These strategies should demonstrate a positive impact on the business, its employees, stakeholders, and customers, showcasing how a nurturing culture contributes to overall growth and innovation.

The Excellence track celebrates businesses that have demonstrated remarkable success and impact within their industry, regardless of their size. Entries for this category should illustrate how the business's strategic execution, guided by visionary leadership and exceptional expertise, has significantly influenced the industry. The focus will be on the tangible outcomes of these strategies, highlighting the company's ability to innovate, lead, and leave a lasting impression in its field.

The Good track is focused on recognising companies dedicated to their mission of creating a positive societal impact. Entries should highlight innovative solutions aimed at addressing global challenges such as environmental sustainability, social equity, and community well-being. Successful submissions will demonstrate how their initiatives contribute to significant changes, tackling issues like gender inequality, social imbalance, and injustice, thereby setting a precedent for responsible and impactful business practices.

Awarded to a single entry in a category, Grand Prix is the top accolade in that category. To win the Grand Prix, the entire Judging Board must unanimously agree that the entry deserves the accolade of being the best in that category.

The Growth track is about showcasing how businesses have enhanced productivity and execution to make a significant impact in their market. Entries should highlight innovative strategies that have optimised the customer journey, leading to increased engagement and commercial success. This track is for those who have effectively used their understanding of the market and customer needs to scale their business and achieve notable growth.

The Operators track seeks entries that showcase leadership in fostering innovation within their ecosystems. Ideal submissions will highlight how your initiatives have catalysed the creation of new products or services, bolstered by a culture that uplifts internal teams and the wider community. This track celebrates those who drive progress by empowering voices and forging transformative connections in their industry.


  • Always Evolving New

    Acknowledges a culture of continuous learning and improvement within a company, encourages employee development, and always looks for ways to optimise and innovate operations.

  • Big & Mighty Culture New

    Recognises companies (51-1000 employees) for their exceptional efforts in cultivating a culture that champions innovation.

  • Diverse Co.

    Celebrates workplaces dedicated to fostering innovation through a vibrant tapestry of diverse talents and perspectives.

  • Small & Mighty Culture New

    Applauds small teams of fewer than 50 employees for their remarkable ability to foster innovation and set new benchmarks in their domain.

  • Work Sweet Work

    Acknowledges companies that have achieved extraordinary employee engagement, satisfaction, and retention, creating an exemplary workplace culture.

  • Company of the Year

    Honours an outstanding company that not only showcases exemplary leadership and resilience but also demonstrates a clear, quantifiable impact over the past year.

  • Customer Obsessed New

    Applauds prioritisation, understanding and meeting the needs and expectations of their customers, including feedback, personalised services and ensuring high satisfaction.

  • Defiant Ones

    Recognises firms that lead technological innovation, setting new standards and defining the future of their industries.

  • Hammer

    Celebrates companies that have not only defined success on their own terms but have also concretely demonstrated their triumphs over the past year.

  • I Wish I'd Done That

    Applauds ingenious, simple solutions in niche markets that spark a universal sentiment of admiration.

  • On the Rise

    Celebrates early-stage startups, under 4 years, that have shown remarkable progress and success in their initial years.

  • Prodigy

    Recognises young visionaries under 30 with outstanding talents and achievements, setting them apart in their fields.

  • Singularity

    Highlights AI-driven companies that are pioneering new services or integrating AI to create innovative products.

  • Women in Business

    Celebrates female entrepreneurs and leaders who are forging paths for future generations by creating more equitable opportunities.

  • B-Good

    Recognises businesses that redefine commercial success by positively transforming our economic system for the benefit of all stakeholders.

  • Circular Pioneer

    Celebrates companies at the forefront of circular economy practices, making substantial and sustainable differences.

  • Ethical Leadership New

    Commends companies exemplifying leadership in environmental and social governance, setting standards in corporate responsibility and ethical practices.

  • Going Green

    Acknowledges companies leading large-scale sustainable initiatives, addressing critical areas like clean energy and environmental justice.

  • Collab New

    Honours strategic partnerships and alliances with other businesses to leverage complementary strengths, access new markets, and share resources for synergistic growth and innovation.

  • Design First

    Celebrates companies where design is the heartbeat of innovation, engaging the whole team in crafting groundbreaking products.

  • Going Global New

    Applauds companies that have expanded their reach globally, showcasing exceptional growth and international success.

  • Great Pivot

    Acknowledges companies that adeptly navigate change, leveraging insights to pivot towards delivering outstanding products.

  • Movement

    Recognises unforgettable event experiences that resonate emotionally, drive social change, or achieve viral status.

  • New Model

    Honours businesses revolutionising markets with elegant and disruptive business models.

  • Next Level New

    Applauds companies which had successful strategic acquisition and integration of another entity, staff or an asset that allowed them to further grow and scale their services.

  • Wildfire

    Celebrates companies that have rapidly and significantly impacted their marketplace, online and offline, setting new standards for success.

  • Angel

    Honours visionary angel investors who've significantly contributed to early-stage startups, guiding them toward success.

  • C-Suite

    Recognises exceptional leadership qualities in high-ranking executives, showcasing their management and interpersonal excellence.

  • Creative Maverick New

    Honours unconventional thinkers with exceptional abilities to execute typically unimaginable initiatives, expertly coordinate teams, secure funding or successfully launch multiple ventures.

  • Ecosystem Star

    Celebrates individuals who energise and nurture their communities, fostering engagement and advocacy.

  • Future Builder

    Recognises the determination and resilience of founders who've embarked on the challenging journey of starting their own ventures.

  • Quiet Achiever New

    Applauds the unsung heroes whose behind-the-scenes efforts have led to flawless project executions and exceeded expectations.

  • Splash Down Under New

    Acknowledges international companies making a noteworthy entrance into the Australian market, enriching the local business ecosystem.

  • TopCoder

    Recognises developers for their outstanding technical skills, clean code, and collaborative spirit.

  • Venture Cap

    Salutes venture capital firms with a track record of backing transformative businesses, contributing significantly to Australia's economic growth.

  • Visionary New

    Recognises effective leadership by setting a clear vision, motivating the team, and making strategic decisions that guide their business towards its goals.

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