Fundamentals of a Remarkable Culture
By Kent Stemper, CEO
One of the most common questions I get as CEO of BluSky Restoration is about our culture. They notice it’s unique, it’s special, and they’d like to understand it better.
Point #1: Culture is very, very important.
When the iPhone was at its peak, it sold itself. There are certain products that are so much better than anything else on the market, there is no competition. There are two examples, but they are exceptions. The vast majority of business is done through intense competition. And the competition is conducted through tasks and the people that perform them. If you believe that, you quickly realize how important people (employees), and the culture they work in, are to business success.
Point #2: If Culture is important to you, you’ll find ideas everywhere.
It’s a common scenario. You go out and buy a red jeep. Just after, you realize there are tons of red jeeps on the road. Why didn’t you see that before? Science says this is because once you bought your jeep, your brain tells you “this is important”, and now your brain is on the lookout for them. We pay a lot of attention to our culture and employees. I read something on the impact of Taylor Swift making a video on holiday gift giving for her fans, and I decided to send every employee a hand written holiday card. I read an article on the National Football League and how technology was killing defenses, and got the idea to give our employees iPads. That was a huge hit with our people and a big improvement in productivity.
Point #3: To be the best and improve, you must solicit employee feedback.
When I was promoted to CEO my first thoughts were about areas I wanted to change. We were doing a monthly video, and I thought for sure we could cut back on that and make better use of our time, maybe do it every two months, or possibly once a quarter. Then I read our comments from employees on a survey we had taken, and saw how much they valued and appreciated our videos. I quickly concluded that we could never change the monthly video. After that, I would frequently hear comments from our people on how much they liked and valued our videos. We have tweaked the video over the years, and added an Employee Question and Answer section. Questions are submitted anonymously and I address them. Through that process we have had many good suggestions about things to change in our firm (both large and small items), that have been implemented.
Point #4: Trust is the glue that maintains and builds the relationship with employees.
Trust isn’t a word that’s used a lot these days, it isn’t a power word, and quite frankly doesn’t seem to carry a lot of weight. But if you don’t have trust, or if you remove it, you can destroy marriages, relationships, and yes – even businesses. Trust isn’t something we talk about at BluSky, and it isn’t something we consciously focused on, but we believe it’s the most important element we have in fostering our culture and employee relations. It starts with the character and integrity of our Senior Leadership Team, doing what we say we’ll do, and being open and transparent with how we’re performing, where we’re going, and what may not be going so well. It’s not always happy talk, but our employees know they’re getting the truth and we’re not withholding information or manipulating the facts, and their trust in us has helped us get through tough times. Yes, our employees trust us, and that is critical.
Point #5: We hire for people of character, and seek people who are willing to serve.
If you’re paying attention you’ll notice I’ve said very little about what our culture is actually like. Culture is a bit like an individual, you can’t characterize someone in one word, they’re complex, so I’ll do my best to give you a sense of what it is like and the main driver for that. Our point of focus at BluSky is our customers. We are an outward-facing organization. In conjunction with that, we need people of character, with some of the main attributes being people who are unselfish and are here to serve. That’s the first and most common aspect we look for when recruiting. The first thing that people say once they come into our offices is that it’s a place with high energy. Almost all of our people are very positive – the glass isn’t just half full, there’s a glass half full of opportunity! We have unbelievable teamwork, people even thank the finance team! I know! One of the most used descriptions is that it is a ‘Work hard, play hard’ environment. There are other elements, but those are some of our key ones. At the end of the day, through some strange combination of what we do, we have employees who love the place where they come to work every day. And there’s a lot of studies and data that support the fact that the best customer experiences are directly linked to employee engagement and specifically employee happiness.
Here’s the conclusion. I will go back to Point #1 – culture is very important. To us, it’s critical. It’s an advantage. Therefore, we protect our culture. Treat your culture similar and you’ll be on the path to success.