Building a Strong Company Culture – Lessons from Founders Vol. 2

Just this past week we hosted the second edition of the Founders series. We were joined by local entrepreneurs James Boettcher from Righteous Gelato (formerly Fiasco Gelato) Lisa Shelley from Neal’s Yard Remedies, Breanne Ramsay from BRITT Land and Engagement, and our event partner Mandy Balak from The Ace Class.

In addition to the highlight video included above, you can also watch the entire event here.

Building a strong company culture, especially in the entrepreneurial startup space, is a popular topic, with varying opinions on how best to achieve your own unique workplace culture while building an A-Team of people who can support your company’s goals and vision. Here are some of our favorite panelist insights from the evening on how they have built great company culture:

Question 1: What is your favorite interview question?

James: What is the last thing you [messed] up and did you own it? We ask this because it’s a core value at Fiasco Gelato.

Breanne: BRITT Land and Engagement likes to ask what people think about conflict and how they’ll engage in it.

Lisa: To identify if people are focused on making an impact or maintaining the status quo, Neal’s Yard Remedies asks what candidates would do if they were independently wealthy.

Question 2: How do you approach the topic of salary?

Breanne: We always have a salary budget in mind, a minimum and a maximum for the position, then we ask for the salary range in applications and during the first interview. Salary doesn’t have to be a taboo conversation, and we want to be able to have discussions with people if their salary doesn’t align with our budget.

Lisa: We ask in the first interview, and during the phone screen, we let the interviewee set the bar, and then we discuss salary from there.

James: If a candidate’s salary expectation comes in outside of the budget, you honor the budget.

Question 3: What does an employee’s first day look like and how do you help them integrate to your company?

James: Fiasco welcomes new employees with a sign on their desk, a Fiasco T-Shirt, some company swag, and a copy of the culture book. The culture book at Fiasco is the guidebook for everything an employee would need to know about working for Fiasco. They also provide onboarding buddies for new employees, provide tours to meet people, and ask new employees to meet all of their own co-workers to learn their names and a fun fact about them.

Lisa: We do swag and introductions, along with skincare consultations so they can learn more about the company products and themselves. Also, since Neal’s Yard Remedies is a family organization, it’s important to welcome new people into the company, so they feel like they belong.

Breanne: On the first or second day we do a meet and greet that is tailored to the employee preferences and personality where the team asks questions that everyone answers, and the team practices their elevator pitches. Finally, we present the new team member with a gift basket filled with items that are important to the new team member based on specific questions that they have previously asked about.

Question 4: How quickly do you find out that someone was the wrong hire?

Lisa: If someone was the wrong hire, I knew it from the start because of the gut check process. So, either there was such an extreme need that we needed to bring someone in instantly, or I wasn’t listening to my gut.

Breanne: We do a team talent review every six months where we grade every team member, and if someone is not an A player then we create a coaching plan for them. This involves using the four pieces of paper method where employees need to write downwhat they need to do, what you need from your direct support, what will you reward before doing everything you need to do, and if you don’t do everything you need to do what will the repercussion be.

James: We do a PIP (Performance Improvement Plan), and it has to be written by the team member. The most important time is when the chips are down, and if the team member leans in and acknowledges their shortcoming and wants to correct their action then I know we probably made a better hire then we thought we did.

A huge thank you to The Ace Class for being our event partner in this series and helping us share these entrepreneurial stories on organizational culture with everyone.

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