Today we’re sharing insight from guest blogger Nick Smarrelli, CEO of GadellNet. We hope you enjoy Nick’s wisdom and perspective.
When I joined the team at GadellNet, one of the first things I noticed was what it felt like to work at GadellNet. We were small then, less than five people, and it truly felt like family. The culture was naturally customer-centric, helpful, transparent, and flexible. What I saw was a company about to explode, and I didn’t want to lose the awesome culture that was already in place.
We spent 9 exhausting months of trial-and-error to identify our core values. What made us different? How can we use this to weed out those that don’t fit our culture? Was it clear enough to help make hiring/firing decisions? Was it inspiring? How did it play into our commitment to the community, our employees and our clients? Was it memorable? We didn’t want to have core values that were trite, rather, something that served as the foundation for every decision made as a company.
We finally put into words what was driving GadellNet employees – Make an Impact, 100% Responsibility 0% Excuses, Grow or Die.
Once formulated, our number one priority became to operationalize these values. They have been the driving force behind all our decisions since we decided to intentionally build a culture we loved. From what software to recommend to a client to who to hire and which new products to add to our offering, each decision circles back around to our core values. Because of this, growing tenfold in employees and even more in clients hasn’t changed the feeling of family in our offices.
So often we see great values on the walls of conference rooms, but they aren’t woven into every aspect of a company’s culture. And as the company grows, the culture falls flat. How can you avoid this in your organization? How can you make sure your core values are more than words on a poster and continue to be the company’s foundation? Here’s how we’ve worked to tackle these challenges at GadellNet…
The Hiring Process
The beginning of your core values starts with the hiring process. All employees, including our technical engineers, have their first two interviews focused on behavior and value alignment versus technical ability. We also utilize personality and cognitive testing as part of the assessment phase. In 7 years, we’ve grown from 4 employees to over 80 following this methodology.
Focus On The Whole Person
As GadellNet grew, we were able to really focus on growth and impact of the whole person. Our employees enjoy perks such as an on-site gym, flexible working situations, dog-friendly offices, generous PTO, healthy snacks, personal coaches, and so much more. These benefits contribute to the culture and help us attract the right people - but our culture can only be preserved if each and every person lives our values and remembers where we got our start.
We work to foster our culture through a variety of initiatives. Our Badge Program rewards impactful behavior. We have a volunteer program to ensure impact to our community – it includes the ability to get matching funding by the GNET leadership team and provides each employee with designated PTO time for a volunteer event. We allow for over $5,000/person of training and every employee receives an IDP (Individual Development Program) to help map their progress towards our “Grow or Die” value. This IDP features a focus on BOTH personal and professional goals. With GadellNet University, employees have access to training options for technical skills, company awareness, and the critical soft skills that create better employees, spouses, and parents.
Cheers for Peers through TINYpulse, an online feedback and recognition tool, helps provide us with an active and transparent dialogue to reward and recognize high performing employees. Further, TINYpulse also allows us to crowdsource (on a weekly basis, anonymously) ideas on how to improve, how to lead better, identify weaknesses, and more. I’m proud to say that nearly every “great” idea implemented has been sourced, in some capacity, from our teams.
All our leaders have gone through what we call Leadership Academy, an internal six-month intensive course focused on emotional intelligence, financial acumen, coaching, mentoring, and goal-setting. As of the writing of this blog, 100% of our leaders came into the company as an individual contributor. We can’t say we’re a grow or die company and not create places for our top performers to land and contribute in a more impactful way.
Finally, operationalizing the values comes back to identifying a common language. You can walk around our office and 100% of our employees can name our values, identify where we’ve lived those values, and articulate our vision.
What’s The Risk?
One of the cornerstone elements of our “grow or die” value is that we can always do better. So, while we have made great strides to create a culture where our employees can do their very best work – we have a lot of work to do. As the company grows, we must evolve as quickly to meet the growing demand to be a world-class organization. A powerful feature of hiring the best is that they demand the best. Creating a company where both the leadership and employees demand continuous improvement has created a snowball effect, where no one person is driving that improvement, it’s become a team effort.
So, the risk is in thinking that this process can be considered complete. As your company grows, the status quo won’t be enough. You may very well have to reevaluate and change your core values over time. And you will most certainly have to continue to work on keeping your values at the foundation of the organization and top of mind with your employees. Investing in your culture takes a little time, a little strategy, a little creativity, and a little patience. But this is one area to invest in that will always pay you back.
This content was written and shared by guest blogger, Nick Smarrelli.
Nick is the CEO of GadellNet Technology Solutions, responsible for the growth, culture, and management of the organization. He’s been with the company since 2010. In that time, GadellNet has grown from 4 employees to over 65 in 2018 - investing heavily in operations, continuous improvement, culture, and transformation to become one of the larger small business IT consulting firms in the Midwest. GadellNet's mission is to "Empower Small Business Through Technology" – they believe in improving workflows and delivery of service through the effective use of technology.