Recently, we nominated the Bradford Group for Inc. magazine’s “Best Workplaces” award. The bar is pretty high. *Only three Tennessee companies were recognized last year – none of which are based in Nashville. But, nothing ventured, nothing gained.
As we began listing on the nomination form all of the things we do here to foster and maintain a welcoming, supportive and goal-oriented culture, we started getting a little impressed with our company. In all, we were able to call out 30 culture-focused activities at the Bradford Group, ranging from beginning the day with a huddle and cheer to regularly conducting “net promoter score” surveys to gauge employee satisfaction.
You can see the entire list below, divided into two sections: 1) How the Bradford Group demonstrates a commitment to putting culture first, and 2) Management ideas the Bradford Group practices that set us apart from other employers.
We owe a large part of our commitment to culture to a decision seven years ago to work with Andy Bailey and his company, Petra Coach, a business coaching firm which has invented a way to build a successful business and business culture based on “Mastering the Rockerfeller Habits” by Verne Harnish, founder of the Entrepreneurs’ Organization.
Every quarter for seven years, Andy or another member of his team comes to our office for a day-long planning session. We evaluate how we did last quarter, talk about opportunities and challenges and set goals for both the company and each team member for the upcoming quarter. And Andy keeps it real. Tears have flowed on more than one occasion, because he makes us confront the really difficult stuff from which real growth springs.
Andy did a lot to help us create the intentional culture we have today, including insisting on the Bradford Group starting every workday with a 15-minute huddle in the kitchen, during which we tell everyone what is on our calendar that day, exactly where we stand on meeting our quarterly goals, find out if anyone is stuck and needs help and name the most important thing we will accomplish that day. Then we end with a cheer. Usually we declaim our three core values – Smart! Active! Results! – but we might cheer the arrival of a new team member, a new sale, a particularly spectacular result a team member achieved or just the fact that it’s Friday.
The amazing thing is that this simple, daily 15-minute meeting – which we conduct standing up to keep it short – was the best thing we ever did to create a great culture. I’m not sure I can explain it to you. Maybe it’s a commitment to coming together every day, looking each other in the eye and saying, “Here’s what I am doing for the company and here’s where I need your help.” Maybe it’s beginning every day with a cheer, not matter how silly it seems. Maybe its just simple comradery. Whatever it is, it works.
And nothing works like a shared, positive culture to make a business succeed. Anyway, without further rambling, here are the 30 things the Bradford Group does to create and maintain a great company culture:
How the Bradford Group demonstrates a commitment to putting culture first:
- We work with an outside business coach who holds us accountable for focusing on culture and facilitates a quarterly retreat during which we honestly discuss company culture and set company-wide goals with individual accountability.
- We use aligntoday.com software to ensure accountability and alignment across the company.
- We hold daily huddles with the entire team for encouragement and accountability. And they always end with a cheer, which is usually an abbreviated version of our core values.
- Managers meet fortnightly with individual members to gauge their level of satisfaction and learn what we can do to make this a great place to work for them.
- We have a “kudos board” on which we post notes to celebrate individual accomplishments, pointing out how the accomplishment demonstrates one of our core values. Each quarter a prize is given to those with the most kudos in each of our core value categories, as well as the most overall. The person who gives the most kudos also wins a prize. Prizes – which range from Starbuck gift cards to a paid day off – are determined by a spin of the “Wheel of Bliss.”
- Each quarter is devoted to a theme based on a company-wide goal that we track via a graphic in the lunchroom. (This quarter’s theme is “Disco,” and it involves making everyone more aware of our DiSC scores and how they affect communication with each other.)
- Everyone takes a DiSC assessment and a Motivating by Appreciation assessment. We use the results to better communicate with each other. Each person has a customized sheet of his or her DiSC score, motivators, stressors and ways to express appreciation, which is posted on everyone’s office door.
- When we meet our quarterly goal, we have a company-wide event – like going to a ballgame, going bowling or out to dinner.
- We decorate offices for birthdays and work anniversaries.
- Every team member has two “flex days” a month when when can work from home or wherever they want.
- The company has at least 2-3 community service outings every year when we close down and, as a group, volunteer our time and manpower for local non-profit organizations.
Management ideas the Bradford Group practices that set us apart from other employers:
- We pay for our COO to attend a Second-in-Command training program developed by the Nashville chapter of the Entrepreneurs’ Organization. In addition to training, she also participates in a forum with other COOs for ongoing discussion and feedback.
- Our CEO is also a member of the Entrepreneurs’ Organization, where he is a member of a CEO forum that meets monthly to discuss business issues – and HR/Culture issues are always high on the list.
- We have written standard operating procedures for everything we do.
- The entire company, not just the CEO, has an opportunity to be involved in generating new business.
- We have an open door policy and are a very flat company – everyone has the opportunity to voice concerns, take on new projects, work outside of their original job description and collaborate with others as desired.
- Everyone in the company is involved in helping our business move forward – setting annual and quarterly initiatives and goals, providing feedback on what is working or not, ensuring we are constantly improving. Each person also has the opportunity to help drive those priorities.
- Our fortnightly one-on-one meetings ensure that every employee – no matter the level or tenure – can have time to talk through any issues and receive or give any feedback.
- Almost everyone has an office vs. a cubicle because it’s a more humane and productive work environment – even though it is more expensive than an open office design.
- We have a company-wide book club – using www.betterbookclub.com – in which we pay people to read books about business and our industry.
- We hold weekly company-wide brainstorming sessions for whichever client needs new ideas that week.
- Every Friday we wrap things up early to have Beer Fridays and hang out together before the weekend.
- We take a regular survey to get our net promoter score (or employee satisfaction score) and anonymous feedback on the company.
- Each person has a budget for professional development, which can be applied to taking classes, joining an organization, going to networking events and more.
- The company has subscriptions to online training offerings for ongoing development, which are available to everyone in the firm.
- Periodically, we have a lunch that the company hosts and brings in someone for informal discussion and/or training.
- We proudly display our core values on our website and on the wall of our library. Our internal sign also includes specifics on what it looks like to live out our core values every day.
- We offer a program to receive a reduced gym membership, of which the company pays half.
- In addition to vacation time, we give everyone five floating holidays so they can take the time to travel and be with family without it eating into their regular paid time off.
- We don’t micromanage. Really. We hire entrepreneurial people and trust them to do their jobs. Management is there for guidance, accountability and quality control.
* The three Tennessee companies that won the Inc. “Best Workplaces” award in 2017 were Reliance Partners and Steam Logistics, both in Chattanooga, and TEVET, in Greeneville. (We are proud that a long-time former client, DSi, was named an Inc. Best Workplace in 2016, the first year for the award.)