Recruitment is a key driver at Supercell, which has less than 200 employees, up from six when the company started. Prospective employees go through a rigorous interview process, before meeting with Paananen as the final step.
“I have interviewed every single person who has ever joined Supercell,” Paananen says. “The reason we invest so much time and effort into the recruitment process is we think that it is the most important decision that you can make as a company.”
For Paananen, the secret of success is a flat management structure that allows employees to work in small teams with “complete freedom and responsibility,” i.e., no boss. The key is finding employees who are passionate, highly skilled and have the right mindset to work autonomously.
Supercell derives its name from the group of small teams or “cells” it empowers to create the games internally. For instance, Clash of Clans, which constantly ranks among the top-grossing mobile games, was created by just five people.
“Once you have these great individual contributors, it's almost trial and error on how to put together a four person integrated team. As time goes by, you can learn which people work best with other people.”
Clearly, the structure and the ability to keep a tight focus on recruiting people who fit the company culture is working for the mobile gaming giant. Supercell saw revenue rise 36% in 2015 to more than €2 billion, along with a 60% climb in operating profit to €845 million.
Despite this impressive rate of growth, Paananen believes the company needs to remain relatively small to keep the innovative entrepreneurial spirit alive. As such, it has chosen to take a steady growth path so as not to compromise its flat structure.
“One of the things I'm most proud of is how slowly we've grown. In a small company, you need less process … less layers of management,” he says.
Despite only adding between 20 and 30 people a year, Supercell focuses on having a zero bureaucracy environment, so the work is always at the forefront. “We happen to believe in the culture and the people — that's the most important reason why we've been successful. We wouldn't ever put the culture into jeopardy, just for the sake of adding more people too quickly.”