A tray slips from a waiter’s hand, sending the water glasses hurling towards the floor, shattering.
The entire restaurant comes to a screeching halt. Heads turn. The tension is palpable.
Danny Meyer was hosting Daniel Coyle, New York Times bestselling author, at Union Square Cafe for an interview on a piece about excellence. In most places, this moment would be disastrous. However, for Danny Meyer, what happened next was exactly why Daniel Coyle was interviewing him.
Meyer has 25 restaurants, and Union Square has won the top stop in Zagat’s best-restaurants rankings an unprecedented 9 times.
The waiter who dropped the tray began cleaning up the mess. Another waiter joined in to help. Soon, a third. The staff didn’t skip a beat. In fact, the energy of the entire kitchen was elevated.
Ask Daniel Coyle why this should-have-been-disastrous event instead boosted the energy, it’s a simple answer: culture. The uplifting strength had nothing to do with the incident and everything to do with each other. That’s just how things are at Union Square Cafe.
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Engagio recently celebrated a 3rd birthday. Founded on Pi Day (3-14-15), Engagio has come a long way in a short time. From Fastest Growing SaaS Company awards to Cool Vendor recognition to Best Places to Work awards, we have a lot to celebrate. With 60+ employees (and growing) and 150+ customers, the future is bright.
Ask Jon Miller, Engagio’s cofounder (and previously the cofounder of Marketo), the secret to his success, he too has a simple answer: culture.
On Pi Day, we took the time to celebrate three years of living and breathing our core values.
We took the entire day to focus on culture and building the future. We took the entire day to celebrate the amazing things we’ve accomplished. We took the entire day to celebrate the people that make Engagio a family.
What is culture?
It’s been defined as “the character and personality of the company.” Others say it’s the “behavior of humans within an organization and the meaning that people attach to those behaviors.” Yet others opine “It’s a blend of the values, beliefs, taboos, symbols, rituals and myths all companies develop over time.”
Everyone in your organization makes hundreds of decisions that affect the business every day. Culture determines the quality of those decisions. What do you do when your boss, CEO or colleagues aren’t looking?
Everything affects culture. Culture is way your leaders lead. It’s how you recruit, hire, on-board, train, compensate, reward, recognize, develop, promote and treat everyone. It’s how people define and live the mission, visions and values of the company.
How did we get there?
Let’s take a look at how we build culture.
It all starts with a vision: building the 1:1 future.
Before Engagio, and even before Marketo, Jon Miller was inspired. In their book “The One to One Future” Don Peppers and Martha Rogers, Ph.D., paint a future where every interaction between a company and a customer is personalized and relevant – essentially the 1800s corner store that knows you’ll need an extra carton of milk because little Johnny is sick, but at industrial-era scale. Contrast that with your most recent grocery store trip where few words, and hardly even glances, were exchanged between you and your cashier.
In the 1:1 future, marketing and sales is not about pushing unwanted product at consumers who try to avoid your messages; it’s about using intelligence to help connect people to products and services that add value to their lives, and doing so in a relevant and useful way.
When we frame our mission as building the next great marketing platform to enable the 1:1 future, suddenly things change. The job changes. People change. You stand a little taller. Your chest puffs out. You become inspired.
A vision guides a company and supplies people with a purpose. It prompts action. As Simon Sinek would say it’s your “why.” The “how” and “what” will naturally follow.
Values offer guiding principles: Freedom and Transparency. Happiness and Positivity. Excellence and Execution.
Happiness and Positivity means having fun together and expressing gratitude for each other. It comes from a sense of fulfillment and satisfaction in your work. We trust that our colleagues are competent. We care about each other personally and professionally. We celebrate our successes while staying humble. Always share the credit because we win as a team.
Excellence and Execution means getting sh** done, and getting it done well. Though a startup can feel a rollercoaster, we will persevere. And just because we’ve had early success doesn’t mean we’re entitled to more. We know it will require taking ownership, holding each other accountable and moving fast. A Grade A execution of a Grade B plan beats the inverse. Do things today to move faster tomorrow.
Freedom and Transparency means we don’t have a laundry list of rules. In fact, we have one overarching rule: using good judgment. When you give people all information and don’t hold anything back (transparency), you can trust them to use good judgment when making decisions (freedom). This mean freedom requires transparency. That’s why open communication and debate without criticism is so important.
Building a team of the best people.
In survey after survey, when Engagio employees were asked “what is the best part about Engagio?” the overwhelming majority answer “the people.”
How do you describe the relationship among the people you work with? Are you simply a company, or are you something more? A group of friends? A team? A tribe?
At Engagio, it’s family. Family is always there for you, during good times and bad. They hold you accountable. They help you grow. They listen and take feedback. When you’re with family, you feel safe – you feel like you belong.
How did we do this? By hiring the best people. There are great people we’ve turned down because they weren’t a fit. How do we know? We use our values as the North Star.
You must be vigilant about maintaining your values before, during and far beyond the moment you hire someone. In sports, you’ve seen it time and again when the all-star player tries to do it all on his own – it rarely works. Conversely, you’ve also seen teams win championships that have no all-star player. It’s about how they work together.
Putting it into action every day.
Culture is defined by the executives and the leadership team, not the employees. Culture happens through action, not discussions. Organizations shouldn’t have to empower their employees, but rather they must set up the conditions to allow employees to leverage the power they already have so they can thrive within your culture.
Beyond the free Philz coffee, unlimited paid vacation and ping pong tables, Engagio puts a lot of focus on living and breathing our core values.
- Employee engagement: We use TINYpulse. This allows employees to have a voice, give feedback, receive recognition and stay engaged every day.
- Perks: It’s not the single reason people work at Engagio, but it helps. We have good benefits, like free Equinox gym membership, health coverage, 401k, unlimited paid vacation, and a well-stocked kitchen to name a few.
- Learning and development: Employees are encouraged to enroll in a course, attend a conference or purchase books on Engagio’s dime because we know the importance of continued education. Top performers are always hungry for more.
- Connection and collaboration: We encourage people to build trust and collaboration with colleagues from other departments with things like Donut.ai. We also cover lunch once per week if you go out with a member of a different department.
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Howard Stevenson, Chair of the Harvard Business Publishing Company, makes a bold claim: “Maintaining an effective culture is so important that it, in fact, trumps even strategy.”
We couldn’t agree more.
Let people know what’s expected of them. Give them the tools and materials they need to do a good job. Provide recognition and praise for good work. Care for your people. Give them a voice. Help them learn and grow.
That’s how you build a great company. That’s how we’re building the one-to-one future.