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By Trevor Dierdorff
Founder and CEO of Amnet

Your company culture is what grows your business. Is your culture intentional or did it just happen? For us, it just happened.  We had grown from just one tech to a 15-person MSP in 20 years.  You might say we grew “organically.”  We had a lot of business, but within the organization, things weren’t working.

I decided this was something that needed to be fixed.  As the CEO, I knew the saying, “The fish rots from the head.”  Well, I was the head of the fish because it was my company.  I was determined to stop the rotting.

In 2012 we had a team alignment meeting.  We decided to be intentional about our culture.  I asked the team what they wanted our culture to be.  They said: Symphonic, Accountable, and Fun. However, at that point the words they used to describe us were: Frantic, Poor Communication and Dropped Balls.

So, I asked: “How do we close the gap and who’s willing to commit to do what it would take to do this?”

Some people self-selected out. Some people we selected for them. Fast forward 5 1/2 years, and now Amnet was nominated the “Best Workplace in 2017” by the Gazette in Colorado Springs, and one of the “Best Companies to Work For” in Colorado.  We’re also a finalist in “Colorado Companies to Watch.”

Our Glassdoor Reviews were also up there and trending up. All these things rolled together to give us a better team and happier customers.

Company Culture Matters

Did you know that when employees are happy at work, they are 18% more productive?

Culture creates a competitive difference. Your company culture is dynamic, it’s never stagnant and always changing.  It’s like a stew that when you add ingredients the flavor changes. If you’re not careful, and you add the wrong ingredient, the entire stew will be tainted.

Gallup does an annual survey of employee engagement around the world.  Our approach at Amnet is to make sure we have engaged employees. Gallup’s Q12 survey is the most effective measure of employee engagement and its impact on the outcomes that matter most to your business.  I ran this test with our employees, and you might want to try this for yours.

What Gallup found is that for most businesses in the U.S. only 20% of their staff is engaged, 60% are disengaged, and the remaining 20% are actively disengaged. This last 20% are the disgruntled employees who are actively trying to undermine your mission. There’s probably no way you can bring them back, you must “get them off the bus.”  Then, try to engage the 60% who are disengaged, or they will be like cancer that grows and puts a stranglehold on your business.

Positive Company Culture Begins With Engagement

Engagement starts with fun. We start our work week off with a Monday morning meeting at 7:30 am. Who’s at their best at this time? You’ll probably agree, not many. So, we start our week off with a fun meeting where we throw around Thumballs. These are brightly colored balls that when you throw and catch them your thumb lands on a question that you must answer. It’s a great icebreaker, and many presenters use them for group bonding. This injects energy and fun into our Monday morning meetings.

On Fridays at 3:30, when the phones get quiet, we have a Margarita Party and invite our clients. It’s all about building relationships within our culture and with our client partners.

On Day One

We really welcome our new employees. Rather than putting a bunch of papers with instructions on their desks we decorate them with a big welcome banner, along with a card signed by all the staff. We make a big deal out of our employees’ first day.

KUDOS

We hand out KUDO cards for excellent customer service, solving a problem or for any kind of accomplishment.  We hand them out to our employees to hand out to their co-workers.  The last staff meeting of the month we put all the KUDO cards in a bowl, shuffle them around and pick out two that we read. Then we give a $25 Amazon Gift Card to the giver and receiver of each of these cards. For a $1,200 a year investment, we’re building a company culture where we learn to recognize each other for doing well. These are things I wouldn’t know about as the CEO unless our team was sharing them.  This incentivizes everyone to do their best. We’ve been doing this for years, and it works.

As You Can See We Like To Have Fun

We have fun inside the office. You can do this and still be professional and take your work seriously. But you don’t have to take yourself so seriously. We provide an environment where our employees can be friends with each other, not just work with each other.

We also have fun outside the office. Every year at our team alignment we go bowling at a high-end bowling alley. We invite our families as well.  About three times a year we play Whirlyball.  It’s a combination of lacrosse, hockey, basketball, and bumper cars. It’s a game of skill coupled with a touch of chance. It’s described as the endorphin-inducing answer to your typical outing. We also go white water rafting together.

Frequent Relevant Communication

Daily: We do a Daily Double every day. It’s simply a check-in. It’s sometimes described as a stand-up meeting. People talk about their successes, challenges, what their priorities are for the day, or what they’re stuck on, etc.  Whoever is moderating will try to keep it light with questions like, “What was your favorite band as a teenager?” or “What was your favorite gift as a child?”  We change up who is responsible for running the meeting every two weeks, so everyone has a chance to lead.

Weekly: We have a weekly staff meeting. This is where we provide our sales and marketing update, staff and scheduling information, on-call review (who was on call over the weekend and what happened), talk about our quarterly business reviews with clients, and more to keep the entire staff informed.  We also have a technical training every Monday. It might be a Microsoft video training or instruction about a technology one of our clients uses.

Monthly: We do monthly one-on-one meetings with staff members on their performance. The person the staff member reports to runs these meetings. This is where any concerns are addressed, and positive reinforcement is provided. Rather than the dreaded annual review, where an employee might be surprised about something that’s been going on for a long time, they can be informed as time goes on.

Quarterly: As the CEO I hold quarterly meetings with each of our employees. Once a week, I take one of our staff members to lunch.  I use the same quarterly review questionnaire that I use for our clients, so this turns out to also be a review for our company. “What changed from the last time we met?” “What are some of your professional goals?” “On a scale of 1 to 10, how are we doing?” “If we’re not a 10, what do we need to do better?”  “Would you recommend Amnet to another potential teammate?” “If so, who?” (We’re always looking for good talent.) The next quarter, we’ll review these answers and see if we’ve made progress. We also provide a quarterly financial update to the team. They want to know if their jobs are secure and they deserve to know.

Yearly: Once a year we do an Annual Team Alignment where employees are surveyed about their experience working at Amnet, and where we set goals for the next year.

Mission and Vision

After we throw the thumballs around, we pass the mission and vision around for everyone to read and remember.  Our clients’ successes are our successes.  When we master our craft our clients’ benefit and so do we.  We look at this at our Annual Alignment Meeting to determine if our Mission and Vision has changed or needs updating in any respect.

We Recognize Wins Both Large And Small

This includes:

  • New Hires
  • Passing Certifications
  • Anniversaries
  • Birthdays (We always send a birthday card to our employee’s home.)
  • Gold Comments
  • New Clients
  • Customer Testimonials

We Invest In Our People

Some business owners have a fear that if they train their people, they’ll leave. Your company won’t be successful if you don’t.  Richard Branson says, “Train your people one-up so they can leave, but treat them well enough, so they don’t want to.”

We Strive To Be A Place Where People Are Proud To Work

Amnet has received many awards because of our work environment and our customer service. And we work at getting these awards.  It’s not easy, but it’s important.  We also give back to our community.  We help businesses and homeless people.  How do we do this? We try to empower these people to get back on their feet by training them on computers.  We set up computer labs to teach them the skills they need to know to get back to work. As a result, 300 job placements were made, and this is continuing with our ongoing efforts.  Our team is proud that they’ve been a part of this.  With the help of Marriott and our local Rotary Club, we’ve had the computers and space to provide this service.

Hold Each Other To A High Standard Of Excellence

We want to be a company of eagles. We demand excellence. As a result, we have a team of eagles rather than a team of turkeys. This is not just a top-down thing. It’s self-managing. Our team is empowered rather than being micro-managed.

Hiring

We follow the principles in a book entitled The IDEAL TEAM PLAYER, by Patrick Lencioni.  Patrick’s idea is to hire people who are humble, hungry and smart.  You need all three.

The book provides a series of questions to ask during an interview that will help you find these individuals. It’s a practical framework with actionable tools for identifying, hiring and developing ideal team players.  I ask all of my new employees to read it.

Other books I suggest for business owners and managers:

DELIVERING HAPPINESS by Toney Hsieh. It helps you create a stronger company culture which will make your employees and coworkers happier and create more employee engagement leading to higher productivity.  It helps you figure out the right balance of profits, passion, and purpose in business and in life. And how to deliver a better customer experience which will make your customers happier and create more customer loyalty, leading to increased profits.

DRIVE by Daniel Pink. It discusses the three elements of true motivating:

  1. Autonomy – The desire to direct our own lives.
  2. Mastery – The urge to get better and better at something that matters.
  3. Purpose – The yearning to do what we do in the service of something larger than ourselves.

LINCHPIN by Seth Godin. Linchpins delight and challenge their customers and peers. They love their work, pour their best selves into it, and turn each day into a kind of art.  They may not be famous, but they’re indispensable. And in today’s world, they get the best jobs and the most freedom. Hire artists, not cogs if you want to have an exceptional company.

Since 1998, Amnet has been providing an unbeatable IT support service to clients!  If you’d like to learn more about joining our exceptional team, or becoming one of our clients, give us a call at (719)442-6683!

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