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Startup Culture: Q&A with Trupanion’s Darryl Rawlings

Dog A recent Wall Street Journal blog post talked about the fight for talent at startups. The blogger, Neil Blumenthal (Co-Founder and Co-Chief Executive Officer of Warby Parker), said, “The first step toward finding the right people is to have a deep understanding of your company’s identity.” This couldn’t be more true.

Darryl Rawlings, CEO of Trupanion (a pet insurance company whose mission is to help pets receive the best veterinary care possible), believes this to be true as well. Continuing with our Q&A series with startup leaders, today I’m sharing Mr. Rawlings  views on startup culture in his growing company and the role of Trupanion’s identity in hiring talent.

exaqueo: Does your company have a stated set of cultural values?

Darryl Rawlings, Trupanion (DR): Yes. They are: 1. We do what we say; 2. Simple is better (which is why we have one simple pet insurance plan); 3. Do not punish unlucky pets (meaning pet owners and their pets do not get punished with fees, restrictions, etc. for making claims. We want them to make claims! That’s what we’re here for!); 4. Do not be insurance-like. Be innovative and fair; 5. and We love our pets! And if you don’t, it was nice meeting you; however, you’re not a good fit for our company.

exaqueo: Can you describe your corporate culture in three words?

DR: Original, Fun, Passionate.

exaqueo: When you have made an effort to understand and strengthen your culture, what did you learn the most?

DR: I learned that the stronger the culture, the happier the team. And the happier the team, the happier they’ll make your clients.

exaqueo: What have you learned about the importance of culture that you can apply to the work you do for your clients?

DR: In my business it’s extremely important for every team member from the bottom to the top to be passionate about pets. Their passion for pets makes them passionate for clients pets. When you care about your work like we do, you do better work.

exaqueo: How do you manage having the right talent to meet rapid growth?

DR: When you’re growing as rapidly as we are, you don’t just find good leaders; you find leaders who will strive to create other leaders. Team work is important too, we only hire team players. We’re constantly on the lookout and keeping our eyes peeled for good talent. We spread the word about our company and network our tails off. It’s paid off over the years as we’re getting more people excited about our company and wanting to work with us. It helps our recruiters with candidates knocking on our doors versus the other way around.

exaqueo: Why does talent + culture fit matter?

DR: For Trupanion, the talent absolutely has to fit our culture (pet-friendly culture) or they simply won’t be able to fully understand the value we are offering pet owners. You don’t get the same high quality work from workers who don’t fit well. Quality is low and that worker’s future opportunities in the company are low too because they simply don’t fit our values. When I was raising capital for Trupanion, I brought a variety of big hitters into a room together. I asked them all to raise their hand if they had a pet. For those without their hands raised, I asked them to leave, because unfortunately, they just won’t get what we do. And I made them leave. I require everyone who joins our Board of Directors to own a pet.

Lexi Gordon is a Lead Consultant for exaqueo, a workforce consultancy that helps startups and high-growth companies build their cultures, employer brands and talent strategies. Contact exaqueo to learn more about how we can help you build a workforce that’s aligned with your company culture and develop an employer brand that will allow your business to scale the right way.

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What Company Cultures Can Learn From Freemasons

Harry Houdini. Henry Ford. John Wayne. Winston Churchill. My grandpa. What's the common bond? They were all Freemasons. From fraternities and Freemasons to the Girl Scouts or Rotary, membership really does have its privileges: belonging. We join groups, teams, clubs and even companies to feel a part of something. A community or camaraderie. That's what culture really is: specific rules and attributes that define who you are and how things work. The rules of the road, the community norms. The way we exist. It's what makes strong cultures strong.

The Freemasons began as a guild in the 1700s for stonemasons and then evolved to a social organization full of ritual and rites of belonging. Historically, the rituals drove conspiracies which in turn drove attention and ultimately membership. At its height in 1939, the Freemasons had 4 million members. 

Today, still boasting a membership of over one million members, the Freemasons continue to welcome new recruits into their culture. They don't actively solicit new members--you'll need a referral--and you'll have to check off a few boxes:  men only, above 18, good character and belief in a supreme being (it doesn't matter which one but no atheists allowed).  And that's about all I know for sure because the rest is a secret.

There's a reason ritual, secrecy and tradition matter here. It's called culture. And if your organization wants a strong one, you're better off to learn from an organization that's been in existence for 800 years over hot brands with track records of less than a few decades. Here are six ways you can strengthen your culture Freemason-style:

1) Get people interested in your culture and keep them interested.

While membership in the Freemasons has ebbed and flowed over the years, they've found a way to stay relevant. For modern men, the Dan Brown books did the trick. For modern organizations, they have to stay vocal and relevant to drive interest. That means regular content, and insight where possible into what makes you special and unique.

2) Be clear about what it takes.

While most companies wax poetic about the incredible career opportunities or company culture, they avoid being upfront about how they recruit and who they recruit. Freemasons are clear on qualifications, how to recruit, and who to talk to about membership. Direct connection with a member gives you an immediate, personal, offline culture connection.

3) Show a commitment to your community.

When you create a culture you have to demonstrate no matter how elite or special it is, you care about the larger world that allows your culture to exist. You can't shut yourself off. Freemasons donate an average of $2 million to charity. Every day.

4) Make it special.

Freemasons have secrets.They have closed meetings. Not anyone can become a member. And when you do, you have to keep what's secret, secret.  There's something special that provides a certain allure. And when you're in, it's that sense of belonging.  Same thing goes for organizations with strong cultures. They care about how they welcome you and give you benefits only members have. That gold mason's ring that belonged to my grandpa? My dad had it melted down since he couldn't wear it.

5) Make it accessible.

Great cultures aren't elitist. Freemasons come in all colors and creeds. And they ban conversations on divisive topics like religion and politics. It's not about being better than someone or something else. It's about being a part of something bigger. Accessible, but you have to really want it and make the effort. Organizations with great cultures don't give job offers after one paltry interview. Both sides need to truly flesh out fit.

6) Be consistent.

Every company has a vague list of values on the wall. How many can say they have practiced those same values and have rites of tradition lasting 800+ years? You may not want to develop extensive ritualistic practices but you can develop work rules to show how your culture manifests itself in the business.  Align traditions for work and play -- and don't abandon them. Make cultural norms crystal clear and long-lasting.

Like any culture, the Freemasons have rabid fans and detractors.  And for most modern-day companies, look no further than Glassdoor to find the same.  This isn't an endorsement or a criticism--we can learn similar lessons from many long-lasting religious groups, political parties and local clubs.  It's about understanding what drives long-lasting culture, that sustains and aligns.

Find what defines your organization--what you live by, how you exist, and the constancy that will ensure your business is around in 2714. Then live it, practice it, and hire to it. Don't you want to leave job opportunities for your great-great-great-great-great-great-great grandchildren?

Susan LaMotte is the founder of exaqueo, a workforce consultancy that helps startups and high-growth companies build their cultures, employer brands and talent strategies. Contact exaqueo to learn more about how we can help you build a workforce that’s aligned with your company culture and develop an employer brand that will allow your business to scale the right way.

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HR and Talent Weekly Roundup: Jumpstart Your Culture

exaqueocorevaluesAnother year, a fresh perspective, a renewed chance to think about the role people play in your organization. If you're thinking about rebooting your culture in 2014, stop and pay attention to the pieces we've found this week to help jumpstart that process.

Remember, culture isn't just a list of values on a wall.  I heard from one company on this very snowy day with safety as a core value. Leadership never bothered to communicate to employees on whether offices were open or reminded them to be safe. Huh.

If you want a perspective on how to better your culture, let us know. We offer startup culture audits for clients ($1200.00) and full-scale culture analyses for high-growth companies.

Our first story this week? A video interview...

1) Medallia’s Amy Pressman On Onboarding To Create Corporate Culture from Tech Crunch

"We hire really smart people and really driven people but we want them to realize their full potential and deliver that in performance cand one of the things we want them to do is get comfortable learning all the time taking smart risks and being relaly willing to hold up a mirror when something doesn't go well and being able to say this is what I learned from it. We do a wee

2)  10 Things You'll Want To Remember In 2014 from OPEN Forum

"In the midst of the huge news stories that affected small business owners in 2013, OPEN Forum ran a number of articles that resonated with our readers, whether it was to their desire to be more productive or to be better employers. With all the think pieces and year in reviews rolling out as 2013 comes to a close, it's easy to forget some of the things we've read these last 12 months."

3) How to Engender a Performance Culture from CFO.com

"New Year’s resolutions aren’t just for people trying to drop a few pounds or organize their closets. With 2014 fast approaching, corporations, too, are thinking about what they might do differently in the year ahead.  The Katzenbach Center [found] a stunning 60 percent of survey respondents say culture is even more important to business success than a company’s strategy or operating model."

4)  How Startup Founders Set the Right Company Culture from AlleyWatch.com

"Great cultures don’t just happen. If it’s your startup, you have to make it happen, and it’s worth the effort to start on that first. I assure you that it’s easier to set it right at the start than it is to change it later. Key elements of building the right culture include a written and communicated business plan, defining and practicing company values and measuring your progress."

Susan LaMotte is the founder of exaqueo, a workforce consultancy that helps startups and high-growth companies build their cultures, employer brands and talent strategies. Contact exaqueo to learn more about how we can help you build a workforce that’s aligned with your company culture and develop an employer brand that will allow your business to scale the right way.

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Startup Culture: Q&A with SocialRadar's Michael Chasen

Let’s face it, culture’s hot right now. From Zappos and Netflix to Hubspot and Google, founders are eager to create their own manifestos and espouse a cool culture. I’m constantly reminding clients that it takes more than a list of values to create a culture. The values have to become part of the everyday of your organization. And that means you have to hold employees accountable for them. At exaqueo, we call them work rules. It’s how our clients go beyond a list of core values and cool perks to a culture that really sustains. As founders, sustainability is the model we should be emulating. So I’m always seeking founders who are making that happen–creating a culture that lives, breathes and sustains. This week, I caught up with one founder who’s doing just that.

Michael Chasen is the founder and CEO of SocialRadar and former founder and CEO of Blackboard, Inc. SocialRadar aggregates existing social data to better connect users in real-time, in real places. With almost $13 million in funding earlier this year, SocialRadar’s growing fast. That’s where culture comes in, and Michael knows the importance of getting it right, now.

Susan LaMotte, exaqueo (SL): Does your company have a stated set of cultural values?

Michael Chasen, Social Radar (MC): Indeed, and we worked hard to create it. An introduction to our culture.

SL: When you made the effort to understand and strengthen your culture, what did you learn the most?

MC: When we started the company, we knew that culture was going to be an important component of a successful team and product. We didn’t leave our culture to chance; instead we called upon various influences to establish it and put it in writing for all on board to refer to. It’s one thing to say that teamwork is important, but it’s another to operationalize the company to support that—for example, we have fixed “work late nights” and team outings. In other words, we have both scheduled group overtime and scheduled group fun time. We offer perks such as gym membership, healthy dinners on work late nights, and general flexibility with hours to show our commitment to a work-life balance.

SL: That’s so true–you have to have examples of the values in practice to make them come alive.  What will you do to grow the company you want to grow?

MC: If you build it, they will come, right? We are pouring our energy into fine-tuning a product that is not only cool but ultimately indispensable. Even our marketing team would admit that word of mouth can be more powerful than any planned campaign...

…continue reading the rest of this post over on Tech Cocktail where it was originally posted.

Susan LaMotte is the founder of exaqueo, a workforce consultancy that helps startups and high-growth companies build their cultures, employer brands and talent strategies. Contact exaqueo to learn more about how we can help you build a workforce strategy that’s aligned with your company culture and develop an employer brand that will allow your business to scale the right way.

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Talent and HR Weekly Roundup: Startup Culture Basics Edition

We talk culture all day long, but there's a beginning, a place it all started. And you might be in the place. Considering the role culture plays or even trying to convince your founder or leadership team it matters. This week we've compiled some varying insights on ways to learn about culture and get started in your organization. Remember, values are just the first step--you stil want to do all you can to bridge the gap between values and execution (perks, communications etc.)  Check out our post on what we call work rules--a unique way to put your values in action.

This week's roundup:

1) Want to Build an Enduring Company? Fix Culture First from Agency Post 

"As a leader, your primary role — and greatest challenge — is to build culture. The sooner you begin to look at leadership as the empowerment of people through culture, the sooner you can build a true foundation that will correct the problems the company faces through the people who are in the midst of it every day. More than vision, product or decisiveness, culture is what builds great companies and enduring brands."

2) What Big Businesses Can Teach You About Building Company Culture from Huffington Post

"A great company culture means that you know how to keep your employees happy and productive. And if you have happy and productive employees, they will not only stick around, but attract new talent as well."

3)  How to create company culture from Mixergy

"Today, Zappos is known for their outstanding customer service. But great customer service wasn’t the secret to their success. In fact, “the word ‘customer’ isn’t even in the Zappos corporate values,” says Robert Richman, former culture strategist for Zappos and author of The Culture Blueprint. So what was the secret? Creating a culture of service, which meant providing great service for everyone, including customers, vendors, bosses, employees, and coworkers."

4)   Easy Ways To Create A Workplace Culture That Doesn’t Suck from PanosPanay.com

"Entrepreneurs fret over just about everything: marketing plans, product features, investor pitches, sales collateral, management team hires, company valuations, financial projections, cash balances. But an often neglected, yet critical part of success is the culture that a startup founder fosters and the key role that it plays in the company’s eventual success."

5) Being a Best Place to Work and the Importance of Culture by Design from Cornerstone on Demand

"We’ve said this before, but it’s still true: in today's connected society, corporate cultures get defined by default unless companies take an active role upfront. At the center of this all is employee input: put employees – not managers – at the center and allow them to identify and shape a company's personality, purpose and rewards."

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Susan LaMotte is the founder of exaqueo, a workforce consultancy that helps startups and high-growth companies build their cultures, employer brands and talent strategies. Contact exaqueo to learn more about how we can help you build a workforce that’s aligned with your company culture and develop an employer brand that will allow your business to scale the right way.

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The Path to Startup Culture: Q&A With Raoul Davis

Raoul DavisI saw another post today touting the great culture of a company and showcasing the office space. That's great, but a cool office does not make a culture alone. A culture is a set of values and norms that define the behavior of an organization. Sure. perks and cool chairs can be an extension of that, but you have to start with what you believe. Today we continue our series on companies not only passionate about culture but making the effort to pull that through. Our goal is to show you talent not only matters but can be the difference between success or stagnation.  This week I connected with Raoul Davis, the CEO of Ascendent Group. Raoul's on a mission to amplify the message of socially conscious firms led by visionary CEOs.  

Susan LaMotte, exaqueo (SL): You're in the business of people everyday. But can you describe your corporate culture in three words?

Raoul Davis, Ascendent Group (RD): Highly effective and human.

SL: Simple and clear--important for future employees to understand if they fit with your organization. I know it hasn't been easy, but when you have made an effort to understand and strengthen your culture, what did you learn the most?

RD: That people are resistant to change. Culture shifts take time 6-18 months to be exact and it is a continual process that has to be beaten into the culture. Just when you think it is going smooth you've got to further emphasize things again. Building a culture by design is a process, however; it is sure better than having a culture by default.

SL: Speaking of employees, what are the first three things you first notice about an employee?

RD: Their demeanor, willingness to contribute, and overall attitude.

SL: And how do you manage having the right talent to meet rapid growth?

RD: Don't limit your geographic area. Hire based on your cultural pillars and hire slowly.

SL: What have you learned about the importance of culture that you can apply to the work you do for your clients?

RD: That if you build culture then you give your clients a consistent experience. When you have people fall outside of the culture it creates a bumpy experience and creates unease with the clients.

SL: Tell me about a time you felt company leadership went wrong. What did you do?

RD: I'm actually going through a period now where I assumed the culture was fully embedded however I learned that isn't the case. So we are about to shrink to get things more focused and so I can spend more time on ensuring we have the right things happening. Also you have to accept that when there is a leadership issue the person to look at is the one in your mirror. When your team fails don't point the finger. Figure out what you can do better to help them continue to mature. Entrepreneurship isn't easy, people make mistakes; even the most well intentioned and experienced people make errors. Prepare to have some grace but at times you'll have to adjust or fire quickly. 

SL: So at the end of the day, why does talent + culture fit matter?

RD: You can have a bunch of high performers and not win the championship. Just ask the 2012-2013 Los Angeles Lakers or most of the NY Yankees teams over the past ten years. Despite consistently having one of the most highest payrolls in professional sports [they] have only won one championship. A team has to come together, be cohesive, and all work in the same direction with egos being put aside for the greater good. It takes culture to do that. Without culture by design you get culture by default and that doesn't win championships.

Raoul Davis is the CEO of Ascendent Group help mid size leading companies increase their top line revenue through a unique process called CEO branding. We help the CEO increase their visibility through PR, speaking engagements, book deals, social media, and strategic networking directly in front of their target audience. Learn more about Ascendent Group.

Susan LaMotte is the founder of exaqueo, a workforce consultancy that helps startups and high-growth companies build their cultures, employer brands and talent strategies. Contact exaqueo to learn more about how we can help you build a workforce that’s aligned with your company culture and develop an employer brand that will allow your business to scale the right way.

 

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HR and Talent News Roundup: Scaling Your Workforce Edition

As companies scale, culture and growth go hand-in-hand. This means founders and leaders have to be more and more creative about how to ensure they continue to sustain culture so it doesn't get lost in the forest of growth. This week we share multiple examples of ways you can think about scaling the talent side of your business in the right way. 1) Why Zappos CEO Hsieh Wants To Enable More Collisions In Vegas from Forbes

" "When a city doubles in size, innovation increases by 15 percent,” he says. “But when companies get bigger, productivity goes down.” To avoid that destiny as Zappos expands, he aims to organize the company “more like a city and less like a large company” with densely populated workspaces, and, when it comes to navigating them, a preference for “collisions over convenience.”

2) Small business advice: How to set your firm up for long-term, sustainable growth from The Washington Post

"Hire the right sales people for the right positions and set performance expectations early. Having a well-developed sales culture from the get-go is essential in setting the stage for incoming talent, and it will keep the existing representatives inspired for the long haul...It is much easier to maintain a good culture than fix a bad one. If your once-thriving sales culture becomes stagnant, consider adding fresh talent. Bringing in new, hungry individuals to any team can ignite productivity among existing members."

3) Supercell's CEO reveals the culture he built to produce a £2.5 billion company in 2 years from Wired

"Despite this [success], all Pannenan wants to talk about is company values, both in terms of organisational structure and "the power of small." It is a manifesto for building a better company and he is conscious the world is now listening.  "The best people make the best games," says Ilkka Paananen, founder of Finnish gaming startup Supercell. "It sounds simple and perhaps naive, but if you truly believe it then the only thing that matters is getting those people and creating the best possible environment so they stay." "

4) 4 Ways to Build On Your Company Culture from Momentum

"When you’re not a startup anymore, it can feel like company culture is something that’s already set in stone — not something you can adapt father and improve. This couldn’t be any farther from the truth. Culture can be developed and molded over time, especially with new leadership at the helm."

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Susan LaMotte is the founder of exaqueo, a workforce consultancy that helps startups and high-growth companies build their cultures, employer brands and talent strategies. Contact exaqueo to learn more about how we can help you build a workforce strategy that’s aligned with your company culture and develop an employer brand that will allow your business to scale the right way.

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The Path to Startup Culture: Q&A with Roundtable Companies' Corey Blake

 

At exaqueo, we’ve always believed that the earlier you define your culture, promote that culture –the good and the bad – and hire to it, the more effective the role talent can play in your growth.

Today we’re continuing our series on companies not only passionate about culture but making the effort to pull that through. Our goal is to show you talent not only matters but can be the difference between success or stagnation.

This week I sit down with Corey Blake, President of Roundtable Companies, a storytelling and publishing company that develops and distributes books that change the world.

Susan LaMotte. exaqueo (SL): You’ve had a [excuse the pun] storied career. And now as a company founder, you’re paying close attention to the careers of others. In your mind, why does talent and culture fit matter?

Corey Blake, Roundtable Companies (CB): Talent alone can be a disaster. We actually hire based on culture fit more than anything because there is plenty of talent available. The combination of the two sets the stage for us all to pull the rope in the same direction and create work that matters.

SL: It’s always surprising when you find diversity of talent with similar behaviors. As you’ve gone through this process to understand and strengthen your culture, what have you learned the most?

CB: Investments in culture require faith because they produce results that can often be difficult to measure. But every time we invest in culture, we generate more happiness among our people who then turn around and serve our customers with more enthusiasm, dedication, and brilliance. Lesson learned: investing in culture requires a leap of faith.

SL: That leap of faith isn’t always perfect though, right? Tell me about a time you felt company leadership went wrong. What did you do?

CB: As the CEO, I was handling too much of the day-to-day operations earlier this year. But as an entrepreneur, I'm not best suited to management. I was cranky and financial fluctuations gave me anxiety that I spread all over. My other executive team members sat me down and we had some tough conversations on how to make the necessary shifts so that I wasn't infusing our culture with fear and anxiety.  Our conversations around my anxiety resulted in us making a major shift. We moved me out of operations and our VP moved into the COO role. He is steadfast and our staff responds to him beautifully. That shift gave our staff more comfort (because I am too much of a roller coaster), while it freed me up to get back to my own zone of genius which is being an entrepreneur and building something new. Since then I have spearheaded the launch of our community. An all around win.

SL: Now that you have the right foundation, what will you do to grow the company you want to grow?

CB: At this point, our staff and systems are working at a high level. Our future growth will come from exposure of our work through our new community. We feel we are one of the best-kept secrets in the business world and the world of storytelling, so our growth will come through the use of a bullhorn and inspiring people to share the work we're engaged in.

SL: Looking back, what advice would you give to other entrepreneurs about starting a company?

CB: At all costs remain true to your word. And do what is right, regardless of the cost. Become known for your integrity. You'll learn some painful lessons that force you to spend large amounts of money to remedy, but that will teach you how to hire the right people, how to care for your customers, and how to build systems that support doing things the right way and to an incredibly high standard. That will in turn sell your business.

SL: Well said. Thanks for your time Corey!

Corey Blake is the President of Roundtable Companies. He has been storytelling for almost two decades since he graduated from Millikin University with a BFA in Theatre in 1996. Learn more about Corey and Roundtable Companies.

Susan LaMotte is the founder of exaqueo, a workforce consultancy that helps startups and high-growth companies build their cultures, employer brands and talent strategies. Contact exaqueo to learn more about how we can help you build a workforce that’s aligned with your company culture and develop an employer brand that will allow your business to scale the right way.

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Culture Defined: Client Q&A with ORS Partners

photo3Every startup knows that culture is important, but it often takes a pivotal moment, challenge or obstacle for founders and leadership teams to realize it's time to focus.  We're so busy shipping code, getting product out the door or sourcing new customers we forget that it's people building the business. We love helping clients come to this realization, and ORS Partners was no different.  An outsourced recruiting solutions firm based outside Philadelphia, PA, ORS has energized employees and a strong growth trajectory. But they had the moment--the realization that if they didn't harness the energy now, their growth wouldn't happen in an aligned, bottom-line-driving way.

I sat down with exaqueo client Kate Brewer, ORS Partners' Marketing Manager to talk about why they decided to finally focus on culture and the results of their business-changing process.

Susan LaMotte, exaqueo: What was the driver for a renewed focus on culture at ORS Partners?

Kate Brewer, ORS: Eighteen months into our existence as a company, we were – are – growing rapidly and onboarding new people every month, but needed to define who we are and what our mission is. We had been “running and gunning” as a start-up organization, but needed to take a step back as a leadership team and make sure our employees knew what direction we are headed. We had to put clarity around our business and what we stand for.

SL: When you made the effort to understand and strengthen your culture, what was your biggest learning?

KB: Our leadership team realized that we all understood and we could articulate our Mission, Vision, and Values, but we failed to communicate them effectively to our team. We knew our employees possessed all the qualities needed for success, but we realized we needed to better communicate the larger plan to make sure every employee felt engaged and empowered to do so. With a clear Mission, Vision, and set Values we are able to articulate our goals and tie all of our initiatives back to our core values.

SL: You're in the business of helping others hire. What have you learned about the importance of culture that you can apply to the work you do for your clients? 

KB: Culture-fit is everything. No matter how many credentials a candidate may have, if they do not mesh with company culture, they will not be successful long-term. We have always preached to our clients that they hire ORS to not hire candidates, just as much as they hire ORS to hire candidates. Our consultants are trained to identify culture-fit – one of first steps in client onboarding is for our consultants to learn and understand client culture and assimilate.

SL: ORS will continue to grow in the coming year. As you do your own hiring, based on what you learned, what kind of employees are most successful in the ORS culture?

KB: Through this exercise we have found that our employees are self-motivated individuals who thrive on watching their client companies achieve talent acquisition success with their support. Even more so, ORS employees are team players – we are not recruiters on an island, but members of a large team backed by leadership and account management, a strong sourcing center, an employee led learning and development platform, and a toolkit of resources and technologies that help us reach success more efficiently and effectively.

SL: How does culture fit affect recruiting? Now that you've defined the ORS culture more clearly, how will that enable you to hire more effectively?

KB: As all good professionals in our industry know, recruiting is more than matching a candidate’s skillset to a job description. ORS Partners recruitment consultants are helping clients attract the right talent that will help their businesses grow and develop. Essentially, ORS Partners is a company building business… and without understanding culture fit, we would not be able help take our client companies to the next level with the addition of human capital. Businesses succeed when the right group of people with the right personalities and right skills work together to create products, services, and solutions. Now that we have defined our own culture more clearly, we believe we will be able to hire the right group of people with the right skills – with personalities and goals that complement the organization’s characteristics and goals – to take our business to the next level.

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exaqueo is a workforce consultancy that helps startups and high-growth companies build their cultures, employer brands and talent strategies. Contact us to learn more about how we can help you build a workforce that’s aligned with your company culture and develop an employer brand that will allow your business to scale the right way.

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ORS Partners, LLC is a provider of Outsourced Recruiting Solutions (ORS), and is comprised of top professional recruiters hired to build and scale emerging growth, middle-market, and venture-backed companies along with Fortune 1000 companies.

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Dealing With Difficult Employees When You Don't Have Time

There's a great scene in Shrek when Lord Farquaad breaks off the legs of the Gingerbread Man, basically torturing him for information. Gingy refuses to divulge anything until Lord Farquaad goes for the jugular reaching for his candy buttons. "NO! Not the buttons! Not my gumdrop buttons!," Gingy cries and gives in. This is how leaders of growing companies deal with talent problems. You wait until it's going to cause you real pain. Fundraising or new hire? Client problem or co-worker disagreement? Valuation or toxic employee? When you're focusing on getting investment, customers, attention and Board approval, there's no time for talent. Until there has to be.

But you don't have to wait until it's gumdrop buttons serious. You can manage talent while you're running a business.  And you can handle difficult employees before you get to the point where you're ready to break their legs off. Or where your other employees just want to run.

Deal With It Now

If there's a problem, deal with it in 24 hours. Don't cancel an investment pitch for a difficult employee, but don't ignore the problem for days or weeks either. That demonstrates to other employees that the behavior is tolerated. It also means you forget what exactly happened and move on to putting out other fires. No matter how busy you are, ask the employee for time to talk in the next 24 hours and make it happen.

Give Regular Feedback From Day One

If you bring employees on board, focus on execution and never give them feedback on what's working and what's not, the first time you tell them there's a problem, it's defensive city. They're surprised, you're annoyed and the chasm of communication breakdown gets wider and wider.

From day one, tell new employees when they'll get feedback and how it will be delivered. Share things they are doing well and things they need to improve on. And then actually do it. Regularly. It makes it easier when things get tough, for the tough messages to be delivered. Employees will be used to the conversations -- even if they're on the fly -- and be prepared to ask questions and won't be caught off guard.

Use Your Culture to Make Your Case

Without values modeled by the leadership team, culture is just a collection of silly perks and CEO sound bytes. If you have a set of values and what exaqueo calls work rules, you can always point back to them as a guidepost of how business gets done in your organization.

For example, let's say transparency is one of your core values and you have an associated work rule that describes how and when employees need to be transparent. Then, when an employee hides something or doesn't want to admit there's a problem, you point back to the work rule. If they can't adapt, they're out. Otherwise your trading commitment to culture for one person.

Don't Hide Behind Technology

As founders or leaders, we're always on the fly. I'm writing this blog post from an airport lounge! But that doesn't mean I should text an employee if there's a problem, or shoot off an email, hit send, and shut down the computer. Feedback has to be a two-way street real-time. A ten-minute phone call now will save you five emails later and an employee so frustrated, stewing about the feedback that he doesn't focus for the rest of the day. Always direct, always in-person (or on the phone)--the only way to give feedback.

Give Employees a Chance, But Not More Than One

An employee who makes a mistake can learn and change. A toxic employee can't. That's why multiple chances don't work. Don't count to three or give start-up employees long leashes. You don't have time for that. Instead, be clear about the problem, connect it back to your culture and be honest that you don't have time for it to happen again. Encourage communication--if they aren't sure what to do, ask! But don't give out chances like candy.

You may be able to ignore or de-prioritize difficult employees until they cause a major problem. But waiting means the problem is now big enough to really impact your business.  Do you have time for that? Don't cut off your legs to spite your face. And by all means, don't wait until it gets this serious.

http://youtu.be/FpBJih02aYU

 

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exaqueo is a workforce consultancy that helps startups and high-growth companies build their cultures, employer brands and talent strategies. Contact us to learn more about how we can help you build a workforce that’s aligned with your company culture and develop an employer brand that will allow your business to scale the right way.

 

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Work Rules: What They Are and Why You Need Them

Work Rules: What They Are and Why You Need ThemEvery company wants to be cool in some way -- more specifically, be known for something: a great place to work, a cool thing to be part of, a place people brag about joining. That's where the values come in. Whether valuable or not (pun intended), core values are the hot topic when it comes to culture. You have to have them. And whether you're Toms Shoes, Whole Foods or Teach for America, your values set the stage for your business.

While values and culture creation is the first step, it's not the most important. Enter work rules.

What Are Work Rules?

"Work rules" is a term we've developed here at exaqueo. Work rules are a way to make what a company values real and hold employees accountable. You can have the best list of core values ever, but if you don't hold employees accountable and align the way you do business to them, they don't mean anything.

Here's how it works:

Take one of Whole Foods' core values: "supporting team member excellence and happiness." Sounds good, right? But what exactly does that mean? How is that manifested in the day to day operations of a Whole Foods store?

It could mean personal support -- doing right by each other when it comes to learning and development, lots of time off, special dispensation for family needs, stipends for personal interests. Or, it could be about the business -- supporting team members who need help stocking shelves or find themselves overwhelmed with a line of customers at customer service.

You Have to Define Your Values

Specifically, what do they look like in practice? And at Whole Foods, this particular value is focused more on workplace happiness than happiness outside of work.

Nothing wrong with that -- in fact, their clarity is commendable. As an current or future employee it's clear what they mean by happiness. I can expect very fair wages. I shouldn't expect extra time off.

Another example of a value many companies might have is "customer service." But what kind of customer service is valued?

That's where work rules come in.  Maybe the focus is on deep customer relationships and problem solving. Or it could be about fast service, getting customers served efficiently and correctly. Either way, work rules help you better define what great performance looks like in your organization, and that makes hiring and performance management better. And it helps your company stay focused.

If you're wondering if it's worth it, if there's real, monetary value in this, let me know. I'll send you a real-world example from one of our clients.

If you need the motivation to get started, ask yourself how important talent is to growth.

There's your answer.

exaqueo is a human resources consultancy that helps startups and high-growth companies build their cultures, employer brands and talent strategies. Contact us to learn more about how we can help you build a workforce that’s aligned with your company culture and develop an employer brand that will allow your business to grow in the right way.

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