Building a Company Culture: Live Your Values

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With the emergence of the Information Revolution and significant advancements in technology, the 21st century arrived with exciting promises of new opportunities for intellectual as well as professional growth. Unlike previous generations, the wage earners of today, many of them Millennials, are more likely to switch careers rather than stay at one job as more rewarding prospects are presented. So what, then, motivates an employee to remain with a company? What provides more satisfaction than the promise of a fatter paycheck?

Jay Wilkinson, president of Firespring, offers an answer.

In the mid 1990’s, Wilkinson launched a company that developed websites, one of the first to do it at a commercial level since the invention of the Internet. Along with a few friends, he started from the bottom and climbed his way to the top, eventually receiving money that allowed him to improve the company and expand into ten more cities around the country. Unfortunately, as tensions arose from infighting and as the economy “tanked” after 9/11, Wilkinson was removed as CEO of his own company. After years of planning and “lean[ing] very very heavy” on the people in the company, he eventually regained control of the company. Now the company has upwards of 70 employees, 3,000 customers in 12 countries, and was named one of 2011 Inc. Magazine’s top 50 Small Company Workplaces. Wilkinson attributes all of this success and the company’s redemption to the way they have built their Company Culture.

What is a Company Culture, and why is it so important to the people working a company? A culture is defined as a set of values and principles shared by members of the group. Some companies have generic values, while others seek to exercise values that coincide with the interests of their employees. People like to be involved, to be recognized, and to feel that the work they are doing is worthwhile. Just offering free coffee and snacks is not enough to make someone feel appreciated. Employees like to feel like they are part of family, all striving towards unity in a goal that benefits everyone.

At Firespring, there are 3 steps they use to “design a sustainable company culture”.

  1. Define your values- Instead of coming up with a predictable list of values, think of values that really resonate with your employees. Get them involved and see what inspires them.
  2. Hire your values- You don’t want just anybody working for your company. You want the people who are passionate about the same values because it adds to the unity of the workplace; everyone working towards one goal. It is more beneficial to a company to hire someone who shares the same mindset as the rest of the crew rather than someone who just has a lot of skills. As Wilkinson says, “Don’t hire the haters”.
  3. Live your values- “Create fellowship” among staff. Show employee and peer recognition. Offer an environment for your employees to grow, work hard, and learn while also providing a fun culture. Being serious all the time was never fun for anyone.

It is evident from Wilkinson’s presentation that Firespring has become a tight-knit community of people who love what they do and love the people they work with because of the culture they have created. They work together, learn together, and have fun together. If you are a company struggling to compete in today’s fast-paced society, it is important to remember that it’s the people, the cogs in the machine, who make a company great.