A Culture that Comes from Within: People, Process, and Product

May 16, 2019
The Knock Team

Knock is a unique company – not just because of our Home Trade-In approach to home buying and selling, but also because of our unique approach to organizational structure and company culture. With 150 employees (and counting!) spread across 16 states, Knock is the epitome of a distributed workplace. As such, we need to hire the most skilled, independent and passionate talent, and take strides to engage each and every employee in company life and culture.

We’re proud to share that this effort has been recognized nationally: Knock has been named one of Inc. magazine’s Best Places to Work for 2019, the fourth annual ranking. Less than 20% of the 2,000 companies that submitted made the list.

How Knock Was Selected

Founded in 1979, Inc. specializes in content for private companies, providing them with insights and inspiration as they grow. So naturally the Inc. Best Workplaces list focuses on private companies, across all industries. According to Inc., the companies selected for the list “have created exceptional workplaces through vibrant cultures, deep employee engagement, and stellar benefits.”

After Knock’s initial written nomination was accepted, our employees took part in a survey conducted by Omaha’s Quantum Workplace, on topics including trust, management effectiveness, perks, and confidence in the future. Inc. gathered, analyzed, and audited the data, then ranked all the employers using a composite score of survey results. This year, an average 74.2% of employees at all surveyed companies were engaged by their work – Knock’s engagement score was over 20% higher.

The strongest engagement scores came from companies that prioritize the most human elements of work. Inc. says these companies are leading the way in employee recognition, performance management, and diversity.

“The companies on Inc.'s Best Workplaces list are setting an example that the whole country can learn from," said Inc. Magazine Editor-in-Chief James Ledbetter.

Why (We Believe) Knock Was Selected

Employee satisfaction and company culture have been a top priority for Knock’s founders – CEO Sean Black, COO Jamie Glenn, and COO Karan Sakhuja – since day one. The founders themselves actually started the company in a distributed structure, and they are each still located in different states today. Due to this, they understand the importance of having ways to constantly tie our work back to our mission, and to consistently connect all our employees regardless of location, time zone, or department.

Knock approaches the challenges we are trying to solve for the real estate industry and for our customers from the perspective of three “Ps”: People, Process, and Product. And we take just as much care and strategic consideration with our company environment and culture. Each of the ways we accomplish this can easily be tied back to one of the three Ps. In celebration of our recognition by Inc., we’d like to highlight just a few of them, and what they mean to Knock’s employees, or Knockstars – the people who make Knock such a special place to work.

People: Can I get a POPSICLE?

Knock's values & culture

As mentioned, Knock’s co-founders thought about company culture from day one. During the first few months of Knock’s team taking shape, the then 14-person company got together for our first offsite in Park City, Utah. At Knock’s regular offsites (more below), there are always group brainstorming sessions around big ideas. One such concept at this event was coming up with Knock’s culture and values, so that they came from within.

After breaking out into groups for brainstorming, the team regrouped to discover multiple common themes among what they envisioned for the way the company would operate. As CEO Sean Black writes in Medium, “We thought long and hard about the sort of place we want to work, the culture we want to create, the values we want to foster and the kind of people with whom we want to surround ourselves.” This resulted in a mnemonic device, POPSICLE:

Stephen Freudenberg
GA & NC Market Lead
Knockstar #1

“It was really cool that we were all given a blank slate and an equal share of ownership. Nothing was pre-defined, and all of our core values played themselves out. We were all Passionate about our mission; our founders showed their People First mentality by letting us all have equal input; our feedback was Open; the mnemonic device helped keep it Simple; it had a huge Impact on the team and our mission; we exhibited Courage by spending a week together with new colleagues, sharing rooms and ideas; we Learned from one another; and we definitely Enjoyed Life.”

Process: How can we come together efficiently?

With 150 employees spread across 16 states, it simply isn’t possible to physically get together on a frequent basis. Not only is it not possible, but it would go against so many of the POPSICLE values. Between the need to be People First for our customers, have Impact by making the most of our time, or ensuring we can Enjoy Life with family at home, spending hours traveling each month does not make sense for us at Knock.

Knockstars virtually gather for All Hands

That said, we capitalize on opportunities to collaborate both virtually and in person. For example, our bi-weekly All Hands meetings are conducted over video, with dozens of Knockstars spread across everyone’s screens. During these calls, we have a set process that includes introducing the newest Knockstars, and a State of the Union update from one of our founders. And once a month, we go over the anonymized results from our Pulse Survey, which ties questions about employee satisfaction and the company to our POPSICLE values.

We also make the most of opportunities to meet in person. The greatest example of this is our annual offsite, or Knockaway, that brings every single employee together for a week of brainstorming and bonding. Our most recent Knockaway took place in Napa Valley, CA, and included everything from brainstorming around how to provide a 10-star customer experience to touring the area’s many wineries.

Allie McKinley
Director of User Experience
Knockstar #86.

“The Knockaway in Napa was such an incredible experience. So much can happen in 90 days at a startup, and I was thrilled to be able to share our very first mobile app that the Engineering and Product Team had worked so hard on. Seeing everyone’s excitement when we unveiled the app and its name, which had been voted on by every single employee, was awesome. Between being a participant in the entire week, witnessing Knock’s incredible POPSICLE culture in action through relatively fresh eyes, and taking a role in leading some of the content, I truly got the full Knock experience.”

Product: What tools do we have at our disposal?

Like many startups, Knock is a tech-heavy company – not just in terms of how we innovate around the home buying and selling process and serve our customers, but when it comes to communicating with one another. Like with our All Hands meetings, many meetings are conducted via video call, so we can be as face-to-face as possible even when we are not physically together. Of course, we use Slack for constant communication between individuals and teams, and around important topics like company announcements and news. One such Slack channel is dedicated to – you guessed it – our POPSICLE values, celebrating when our employees exemplify them.

In addition to our monthly Pulse surveys, we leverage technology for constant feedback between managers and their reportees. Using 15 Five, we conduct weekly one-on-ones, set weekly, quarterly and annual goals, and provide each other and the company as a whole with feedback.

Just a few of Knock's employee benefits

Last but certainly not least, the tools that make life more enjoyable, benefits. Knock strives to offer benefits not only in line with, but that surpass other startups of a similar size. We are constantly reassessing and updating our benefits as we scale rapidly – our headcount has increased by 60% in the past year alone. To reference a couple of stats from the companies surveyed by Inc.:

  • Health Insurance: 99% provide health insurance, while only some cover the cost. Knock covers the cost of 100% of our employees’ health insurance and 80% for their dependents.
  • Offsites: 65% take employees to offsite retreats; Knock takes all our employees on a retreat once a year, and different departments and teams go on more frequent retreats. For example, our engineering team gets together quarterly, most recently in Phoenix.
  • Work-Life Balance: 49% allow employees to bring pets to work; while not every one of Knock’s offices allow pets, we are highly flexible with allowing work from home and time for personal obligations, whether it’s walking our dogs, picking up kids from school, or taking time to stay fit and healthy.

And here are a few more benefits that we’re particularly proud to offer our employees:

  • Time Off: Unlimited sick, personal and vacation time
  • Health & Wellness: With Knock’s Health & Wellness program, each Knockstar is eligible to receive a $75 monthly stipend for gym membership, yoga class or other activities.
  • Personal & Professional Development: We give each Knockstar $1,000 per year to spend on learning new things, even if they are not directly work-related.
Dina Attyeh
Senior Accountant
Knockstar #12

“As one of the first Knockstars working on benefits, I’ve seen first-hand the consistent effort we’ve made to go above and beyond industry standards to offer the absolute best for our employees – they keep getting better each year, and usually even more frequently! Personally, I work in a city where Knock does not have an office, so the flexibility we offer has made it possible for me to pursue other important things in my life while continuing to work for such an amazing company.”

People: Why do our amazing Knockstars do what they do?

We come full circle back to the first P for the most important part of Knock’s culture: The mission that drives the people at Knock, which is helping the people that are Knock’s customers. At a high level, we are on a mission to make trading-in your home as easy as trading-in your car. But to put it in POPSICLE terms:

  • Knockstars are Passionate about putting People First.
  • They have the Courage to persevere toward a more Simple home buying and selling experience that makes true Impact on the lives of our customers and the real estate industry.
  • They are Open about providing and receiving feedback across all levels and departments, so that we are always Learning.
  • Despite all that drive and incredible work ethic, Knockstars still value Enjoying Life – every single Knockstar is an incredible and unique individual in their own right.

One of the ways we recognize all this is with our annual POPSICLE Awards, which are given out at our Knockaway offsite. Three winners are selected by their peers for exhibiting our core values. We honor them not only with a prize, but by having them read what their fellow employees said about them out loud in front of the entire company. As Sean writes in his Medium post in sharing a video of the 2018 awards, “You will truly appreciate to what degree Knockstars bleed blue and to what end they will go to realize our mission.”

Sheba Adams
Head of Compliance, Home Valuations Manager
Knockstar #15

“As I said when I received my POPSICLE award, coming to Knock has been the most amazing journey. The company and my role have evolved so much in the two years since I joined – two years that have flown by. It’s a startup, and we work hard, but most days it doesn’t feel like work because the people I work with are phenomenal, the mission we are on is so important, the impact we make for our customers is so rewarding, and the founders who lead us have such a strong vision, but care about each and every Knockstar as much as they care about our customers and the business. Two years later, I still see and feel the POPSICLE values every day, and I am so honored to know that my fellow Knockstars see those qualities in me.”

In Closing, It’s Just the Beginning

While being recognized as a 2019 Inc. Best Workplace is an amazing honor, we know there are infinite great things still to come from our incredible Knockstars and the POPSICLE culture they embody.

Having fun at our all-company Knockaway

The mission we are on, to make pursuing the next phase of the American dream possible for more people by disrupting the outdated traditional real estate industry, is not to be taken lightly. It takes Courage, Passion and a People First mentality, things each and every Knockstar has. We are proud that these incredible professionals and individuals are the ones who made it possible for Knock to receive this distinction, and look forward to creating an even better workplace where they are empowered and enabled to accomplish even more in the future.

Want to join Knock’s Inc.-recognized workplace? Check out our current openings and apply!


A brighter future for homeowners

Since 2015, Knock has been on a mission to make homeownership simple and certain. We’re creating a world where the pains of traditional home buying and selling are a thing of the past.
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