Jeff Bezos once said, "What’s dangerous is not to evolve." 

This sentiment holds particularly true in the property restoration and disaster recovery industry, where rapid growth and expanding scopes of work are the norms. When you have a small, lean team, culture happens organically, driven by good, hard-working people sharing a space and mission. 

However, as teams grow, expand to new regions, and your original cultural guardians depart, there's a risk of slipping into a "maintaining" mentality instead of embracing an evolutionary mindset.  

Reflecting on our journey at Kustom US, we've continually adapted our founding cultural principles while scaling from a small-scale operation in Akron, OH, to one of the largest privately held restoration and remediation service providers in the nation. Here are a few strategies that have made all the difference.


Replacing Nostalgia with Forward Momentum 

It’s normal to look back fondly on the past. But nostalgia for a past organizational state can hinder scaling culture within a rapidly growing business. Instead of striving to restore a past culture, develop and operationalize a framework that drives present momentum.  

The hard reality: What worked in the past may not be effective now or in the future.  

The dynamics, challenges, and people shaping today’s landscape are different — different context, different needs. A once-energizing culture can quickly become demotivating and restrictive if it does not adapt to new contexts. 

Asking today’s workforce to play within the same boundaries as yesterday’s is like asking them to ride a stationary bike. They’ll exert high levels of effort and bandwidth, but they’ll end up right where they started (and so will the business).  

But just like any credible experiment, you need your variables and your constants. The environment you create has to respond to new stages of growth, but your core values — principles and standards you have for what’s behaviorally ethical or desirable — should be evergreen. Core values typically withstand the test of time and carry historical merit that connects your workforce to past, present, and future missions.


Identifying and Developing Future Leaders 

Guiding tenets cannot live with a single evangelist; they gain power and meaning through widespread adoption.  

At Kustom, we've fostered this by identifying and cultivating future leaders who embody our core values. These individuals serve as cultural torchbearers, ensuring our principles permeate every level of the organization and shepherding our corporate thinking within their localized circles. 

According to Deloitte, companies with robust leadership development programs are 1.5 times more likely to innovate and achieve superior financial performance. By investing in leadership development, we’re not just nurturing talent; we’re safeguarding our company culture.  

Our mentorship initiatives, connecting seasoned leaders with emerging talent, facilitate knowledge transfer and reinforce the cultural fabric. This structured yet flexible approach enables future leaders to grow within the culture while infusing it with their unique insights, fostering a dynamic and resilient cultural ecosystem.


Empowering Regional Autonomy 

While a unified culture is essential, we’ve found that carving out space (limited albeit) for regional self-determination establishes a balanced and sustainable ecosystem.  

Giving local identity a place to thrive within a corporate framework enriches the broader organizational culture — harmonizing innovative thinking with operational congruence.  

We’ve established core values, principles, and operating standards standardized across the organization while granting regional teams some flexibility to adapt these values to local contexts. 

Empowering regional autonomy also means entrusting local leaders with decision-making authority, creating a sense of ownership and accountability. This decentralized approach requires radical transparency and trust, which can only exist alongside an airtight recruitment model.


Transparent Communication That Drives Trust 

Clear, consistent, and transparent communication is the bedrock of maintaining company culture at scale. As your organization expands, it's imperative to ensure that every employee feels connected to the company's mission and values, regardless of their location. 

We use a regular rhythm of corporate communications — company-wide newsletters, video conferences, and local team events — to make news and updates accessible, approachable, and predictable to all employees.

Regularly highlighting stories of employees exemplifying the company's values reinforces the culture and celebrates those who embody it. Moreover, we prioritize open dialogue at all levels, facilitating town hall meetings, leadership Q&A sessions, and feedback channels.

Honoring History While Embracing Change

Despite our transformation over the years, our history still serves as the foundation of our identity. Founded in 1968 as a sheet metal and roofing contracting company in Akron, Ohio, Kustom has evolved significantly over the years. 

But the principles of creative thinking, attention to detail, and exemplary service that guided us in the late '60s remain our lodestars today, influencing our recruitment, acquisitions, and decision-making processes. 

We prioritize a shared value system, ensuring prospective partners and collaborators align with our ethos. By attracting individuals who resonate with our values, we amplify our mission and goals, fostering a culture rooted in shared principles.

The Advantage of a Strong Culture

Maintaining company culture at scale presents multifaceted challenges, but with strategic focus, it's entirely feasible. 

By prioritizing leadership development, regional autonomy, and transparent communication, we've preserved the core values driving our success while staying agile in our definition of what good culture looks and feels like, letting the future vision shape the definition rather than turning to a previous chapter of our story for guidance. 

As our business continues to expand, we remain steadfast in our belief that a cohesive culture is essential for navigating growth complexities while staying true to our mission and values. Businesses in our industry can achieve similar success by prioritizing these critical areas, ensuring their culture evolves and thrives alongside their expansion.