Developing The Right Company Culture

I work in a start-up business. I’ve been blessed with a great team who lives and breathes the company culture everyday – people who continue to exude the passion to try new things and develop new ways of streamlining and becoming smart in how we grow and attract the right customers.

We are a small company and we listen to each other – I mean, we really listen and we respect the viewpoints that each has to contribute, no matter how harsh. I believe in transparency, no matter how much it hurts the ego. Especially mine.

Continuous Change Needs To Be Enabled And Nurtured

I always thought I’d get it right off the bat because I was developing this company from the beginning. Not many CEOs have the benefit of creating a vision and cultivating it from its very beginnings. I have. It comes with amazing outcomes but also detrimental effects.

People Are Everything!

It doesn’t usually take long for me to trust people. My nature is to give people the benefit of the doubt. I also pride myself in the ability to spot awesomeness. It’s easy for me to latch onto people who speak about the future, new ways of thinking and their personal philosophies about where things are going. These are the people I tend to work with because they have this intrinsic drive that allows them to continuously question existing processes and figure out better ways to get things done. And I love that.

It’s because of this that we’ve streamlined our communication processes, improved our filing system and created a more structured way of running meetings. This has provided immense improvement especially in a company whose principles operate remotely in different parts of the U.S. and Canada. I have Joe Cardillo to thank for that. We’ve also improved the quality of our content. Susan Silver and Amy Tobin continue to be vigilant about producing valued content that our customers will read. I continue to be blown away with how data is being used to gain us more credibility and earn us more traffic in the process.

Being a leader doesn’t mean you know everything. I don’t have all the answers and I don’t pretend I do. What I do know is that what we’ve built today is the work of a collective team that believes in the goals of the company.

Become Uncomfortable … Always

My partner in crime, Amy Tobin, knows this to be true. We often have uncomfortable conversations. Many times these discussions may criticize a decision that has been already made. It often times makes me question some of my personal views on a situation and my own process for coming to the conclusions I have.

As much as it may feel like it’s a personal slight, the criticism stems from the perspective about company direction and focus. I’ve been known to derail direction in response to some cool ideas that present themselves. My instinct has been to say, “Hey, who’s the boss here?” I’m glad, however, I’ve allowed myself the time to regroup and think about what exactly has been questioned and why. I’ve also nurtured one on one meetings to allow more transparency and honest opinion.

In a start-up people will come and go, even the amazing ones. I take comfort in knowing that I’ve done everything I could to allow each one to develop to the point where they’ve felt compelled to spread their wings and find their own way. Regardless of the circumstances, there has been considerable learning on both sides. This is a business that thrives because its players want what’s best for the company. That is truly rare in big business.

Make Mistakes… Then Move On

When I started this business I had absolutely no experience as an entrepreneur. I had some great experience as a marketer but not as a business person. This learning curve has been a steep one.

I won’t lie. We’ve repositioned the mission for this company several times. It’s been in response to market demand or lack thereof. Each time we’ve gone through the exercise of “Who we are and what do we want to be when we grow up?”, everyone provides their honest viewpoint. This challenges us but also forces us to rethink and refocus, with the intention of getting alignment into what the market needs.

I’ve also made wrong decisions: when it came to clients, our people and how things were done. But I’ve learned from them. I don’t doubt I’ll continue to make more mistakes and learn from those as well. It’s inevitable.

As this business grows up and changes, I would hope that I will continue to maintain the values that have been instilled from the beginning. I don’t doubt there will continue to be rough waters ahead but as long as everyone has a voice that is heard and listened to; and as long as they feel valued, will I feel like I’m headed in the right direction.