While the pandemic caused a rapid adoption of e-commerce, it also forced companies to send employees home to work remotely. This made it difficult for some businesses to instill a strong sense of the company culture in an increasingly distanced workforce.
On this episode of Fool Live that aired on Nov. 23, Motley Fool co-founder David Gardner and Fool.com contributor Danny Vena were joined by MercadoLibre (NASDAQ:MELI) Head of Investor Relations Federico Sandler. They discussed the challenges of a rapidly expanding headcount and the important part that culture brings to the mix.
David Gardner: I wanted to ask you just about the acceleration of business during COVID. Obviously, this is not just true of your company or your countries, it's true of the entire world and so many digital players. I'm curious, just from a cultural standpoint, can you paint a picture for the growth that you were feeling with hiring, new hiring and the growth of the company, let's say two years ago versus two months ago? Does it feel very different? Are you accelerating and can you maintain the culture that Marcos Galperin and others have helped create? You have to be moving into an era of hyper-growth, and I'm just curious how that feels.
Federico Sandler: I think at least for us at least COVID, because we were for the most part already used to partially working remotely, we actually have a culture team within the company and we actually have already cultural principles which we hire and fire from. I think we've been able to permeate culture just from osmosis to something that's a little bit more structured. I think that's served us well over the pandemic, us being a company that is being very benefit from the strong tailwinds of e-commerce now.
I think where there to be potentially some challenges we've seen, and we've gotten increasingly better at, is when we're onboarding perhaps the more junior people, engineers, and people who haven't really had the experience in the office or more of the human contact with some of the more senior people. But like I said, I think because we have a more structured approach to culture, I think what we should be able to navigate as we continue to grow into a larger company, we are already reaching, I think, 11,000 or 12,000 employees. When I started, we were less than 5,000.
Then the other challenge is around the logistics, I guess, people who are different from the rest of the company's culture. But like I said, I think because we really believe that culture beats strategy, I think we're being incredibly focused in trying to permeate into all of the headcount. But around the new employees, I think that's where it's more challenging, but certainly we've accelerated substantially our pace of growth.
Not only in the amount of people that are working in our logistics network, but increasingly we are moving faster in terms of hiring engineers because at the end of the day, we are a people intensive company, and that if we can't hire at the velocity that we need, then we need to start to give up in features or product initiatives on a by-country basis. But I would say, we are fortunate to still have a very strong culture and we hope to continue to have that as we move into 15,000, 20,000, [employees] and so on. But it's been a challenge.