One of the most rewarding parts of my role as CEO of TriNet is that I get to learn about so many entrepreneurial companies. As a strategic partner to fast growing small and midsize businesses (SMBs), I have a front row seat to the persistence, drive and hard work that it takes to achieve success and thrive in today’s increasingly complex business environment.
Expanding global competition, rapid technological changes, a persistent workforce skills gap and the ever-growing burden of state and federal regulations all contribute to immense pressure on our nation’s entrepreneurs. Yet there is still no shortage of determined leaders who wake up every day intent on pursuing their vision for success.
I’m often asked what it takes to succeed in today’s marketplace. Every organization is certainly different, with varying business plans to overcome their specific hurdles to success. I’ve found that sometimes companies that appear to have the greatest opportunities in front of them can fail to gain any traction, while enterprises pursuing what may seem like modest opportunities ultimately achieve spectacular success.
You may ask why this is. If companies with strong business models and clear growth opportunities fail while others soar, what’s missing? Research and data, of course, can point to many reasons why promising businesses fail. Likewise, if you ask 1,000 venture capitalists, business professors and economists, they might each have a different opinion on why some companies fail where others succeed.
But when explaining the difference between companies that fail and those that succeed, much of this expert thought misses one vital component to business success that I see regularly—the organization’s culture. The importance of culture is too often overlooked in a world that increasingly relies on spreadsheets, big data and advanced market intelligence when predicting the next big thing.
The key to small business success
The fact is that management teams who go out of their way to attract, train and retain the right employees—while fostering a sense of collaboration and accountability in pursuing the company’s vision and goals—are often the most successful. Sure, they may have great business plans aimed at pursuing genuine market opportunities but they also excel at securing the right workforce and achieving cultural buy-in from their employees.
A company that does culture right
I recently sat down and talked culture with Brooks Robinson, the co-founder and CEO of Springbot, a fast-growing e-commerce marketing technology company headquartered in Atlanta and a TriNet client. Brooks told me the genesis for Springbot was the need for small and midsize merchants to access the same kind of big data, customer insights and strategic marketing tools from which large online retailers regularly benefit.
I asked Brooks to share with me what drives his company’s success. According to Brooks, the success of Springbot’s solution and its ability to grow is not just about its technology. It also lies within the company’s unique culture. From the beginning, Springbot set out to attract a highly engaged workforce with a focus on entrepreneurship.
Today, Springbot’s culture has proved appealing to a diverse and talented workforce, including many millennials. You can feel the millennial influence in the company’s mindset. According to Brooks, “We like to say we don’t just have 100 employees; rather, we have 100 budding entrepreneurs. We’re a culturally driven organization and we benefit from an energy of passion and customer focus that permeates throughout the office.”
Brooks continued, “I think a lot of why millennials want to work for us can be found in our core values. We incorporate them in everything we do, from our recruitment and onboarding to our internal recognition of colleagues and performance management practices to how we talk about our results and outcomes.” The Springbot core values are: 1) growing customers into fans, 2) delivering on promises, 3) celebrating what makes Springbot unique and 4) living the journey as a team. Lastly, Brooks says, “We are very transparent with how these core values contribute to our business.”
Culture starts with onboarding
Brooks clearly takes these values to heart and goes out of his way to ensure they are transparent from the very beginning of the employment cycle. The company follows a holistic onboarding program, labeled Springbot 101, that includes on-the-job training, classroom instruction and the opportunity for new hires to sit down with the CEO and other members of management to talk candidly about the company’s history, values, traditions and direction. According to Brooks, “We’re making sure everyone understands, from when they start working for us, how important our values are and that this message flows from the top of the organization.”
Springbot recognizes that success is not just driven by having the right technology, solution or business model. It’s also driven by people and ensuring the company is attracting, training and retaining the right talent. It’s an investment. Brooks continues, “Each member of the team, no matter what their role, needs to believe in what we are doing. This is vital to our success.”
The bottom line of culture
Springbot’s company culture has resonated with their employees, as evidenced by their listing in the Atlanta Business Chronicle, three years in a row, as one of Atlanta’s Best Places to Work. This employee goodwill extends to their commercial success—in only five years since its founding, the company has grown to 100 employees and 1,300 stores supporting over $5 billion in e-commerce purchase data.
There are many companies like Springbot who have a strong business model and attractive market opportunities, but Springbot has gone a step further to ensure their success. They’re investing in culture and it’s paying off for them. There are many reasons why young enterprises succeed or fail. Operating in today’s environment is anything but easy. Making culture a priority can make a big difference.
This communication is for informational purposes only; it is not legal, tax or accounting advice; and is not an offer to sell, buy or procure insurance.