Company Culture Matters

After I graduated College in 2009, I found my first full-time job two weeks after graduation. Like most college kids, I was broke with a few hundred dollars to my name.  I was thrilled to have a job and didn’t really care what I was doing. Door to door selling? Cold Calling? One of those kids waving signs on the street in 110 degree weather? In all honesty, I was happy to start earning a steady paycheck and to keep partying with my friends on the weekends (who are we kidding? The weeknights, too!). I ended up finding what seemed to be a decent entry-level marketing job that I hoped would add value to my young career, and boy it did.

The first day, my boss seemed encouraging, the business model was new to me, and I was ready to learn. It only took a few days to learn that our CEO was encouraging to learn HIS way, with HIS techniques/ideas, and anything else was an afterthought. 100% of the ideas came from 1 person. We were replaceable labor. He hired people he thought would be efficient, but didn’t care if we could actually add value. We were numbers. Because we were numbers, any fault was blamed on the general laziness of the workforce, rather than the CEO. The problem was never management, it was always the workforce. Sort of like the guy who gets dumped by 15 different girls, and wonders what’s wrong with them all. Because of this general attitude towards his workforce, there was no motivation and no incentive to work hard, improve ourselves, or build a company culture. In all honesty, the only company morale was built around the employees hate for the CEO. The result was a company full of employees who didn’t care.

The boss played favorites. He addressed problems with specific employees through coworkers instead of interacting with the actual employee(s) he had issues with. He was passive-aggressive. He nagged. His temper was so bad that his head regularly turned as red as a sun-dried Tomato. His attitude reflected down the whole organization. When he questioned one of our distributors for not paying, we all did. When he complained about our photographers, we all did. When he complained about our print source, we all did. It took me a while to realize it, but everything a CEO does ripples down, and most businesses that go wrong, go wrong slowly. This was a prime example of that.

Fast forward to 2011 and FayeBSG. The first day of employment, and I’m already given specific instructions by our CEO to bring forward new ideas for our company meeting the following week. I’ve already been given a project task with very little context, which I’m assuming was a test to see what kind of self-starter I could be. By the end of the first day, I’m already motivated, challenged, and frankly, scared. What did I get myself into? I look back on this and realize how important it is to leave your comfort zone in order to succeed.

It also didn’t take very long as an employee at FayeBSG to realize how important the CEO is (especially with a SMB). Attitudes, work habits, and methodologies all ripple down from management. Because of all of the unique tasks and projects assigned to me in the first week, It’s already a given that we’re a company that wants to aggressively grow and every employee collaboratively works hard. Coming from my last job, this was all new to me. I went from “do task xyz, following template xyz”, to being encouraged to improve our business processes, basically overnight. My last job was based on efficiency in completing mundane tasks, whereas I could already tell that FayeBSG demanded creativity and critical thinking. It was exciting. To sum this up, here are some of the key differences between my last company and FayeBSG. It’s easy to tell which is successful and has a healthy company culture:

  • One company’s hiring philosophy is “no bozos”. The other company’s philosophy is “nobody smarter than me”.
  • One CEO called me 10 times a day just to make sure I was working. The other, calls me once a day because he knows I’m working.
  • One CEO asks for an opinion on potential changes to the organization. The other implements changes and says, “here, learn this”.
  • One CEO throws temper tantrums at his employees because he’s not confident in his leadership. The other CEO collaborates with his employees to improve his leadership abilities.
  • One CEO asks questions for the simple value of insight and feedback. The other nags to make sure you’re completing every assigned task.
  • One company hired me after a single interview with the CEO. The other took multiple interviews, and I was also interviewed by multiple stakeholders.
  • One company has company values up in every room (that are followed). The other company has cameras.
  • One company has voluntary weekly lunches at a brewery (which, coincidentally, everyone attends) . The other has a yearly potluck that employees look at as a task.

The best thing about a great job and company is that it doesn’t only improve your attitude from 9-5, it also reflects on your day-to-day personal life as well. If you love your job, of course it makes sense that your positive attitude will carry over once you’ve shut the office door. Who said management and company culture doesn’t matter?