Cultivating Culture

Eric Brown

Founder & Chief Creative Officer, Whiteboard
Company cultures are built on a foundation of two key ingredients. First, the formality to show up for the job every day plays a big role in any company, but the second ingredient is where the magic happens. At Whiteboard, the informal moments are the ones that make our company culture. It’s the moment when a co-worker becomes a friend and confidante. It’s the weekend get-togethers that happen outside of the 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. work week. It’s when company growth doesn’t just happen on a ladder, but when the character of an individual expands. A good combination of formality and informality cultivates the best in people, and people create the best companies to work for.

Susan P. Harris SPHR, SHRM-SCP

President, See Rock City, Inc.

Every company has its own unique and distinctive culture – the language and behaviors of the employees that display quite clearly “the way we do things around here.” At See Rock City, Inc., we are very intentional about our organizational culture, because we know that our partners (employees) are the basis for our sustained success, and how they interpret and live their employment experience is the single most predictive indicator of our guest satisfaction. We have identified six timeless, yet flexible, values that together with our mission establish the guidelines of culture. We align our internal language, employment practices, policies, and procedures around our mission and values so that together we can be successful. Our longevity, stability, and growth all prove the success of our path. In the end, organizational culture is the mark we leave on the lives of the people with whom we interact—partners, guests, vendors, and our community.

Mitch Patel

President and CEO, Vision Hospitality Group

Howard Schultz, the founder of Starbucks, says that culture trumps strategy any day.
If your business’s goals aren’t aligned with the values, beliefs, and culture of your company, there’s no way to achieve sustainable growth.  The word “culture” is often thrown around in business. But at Vision Hospitality Group, culture is very real and at the core of what we do every single day. Before anything, you need to understand the business you’re in.  We are in the people business first, not the real estate business. The people who work at our hotels are the heart and soul of our company and will always be the foundation of our culture.  A happy and loyal team will take care of our guests – and it all starts from the top.  First and foremost, you have to surround yourself with great people with great attitudes, because you can’t teach attitude. Secondly, it’s our job to place them in a position where they have the best chance to succeed. I often say “put the squirrel in the tree and the fish in the sea.” People are inherently different, and in my opinion, your best chance of success is to make sure you’re leveraging their strengths; let their passion and confidence be their guide.  And finally, the most important thing that you can do, and this is where people often fail, is that you have to take care of your associates. Treat your associates the way you would want to be treated. Associate loyalty and happiness is directly proportional to the relationship that you have with them.  We hope that our associates see this as a career. We hope they are very proud to be a part of our company and feel they have an opportunity to grow and be happy. We strongly believe that our commitment to our people and corporate culture will ultimately define our destiny.

Steve Cox

CEO, Steam Logistics

We look to build a true sense of family at Steam Logistics. We are a broker of international freight, so our culture is high-intensity hustle and we have a Type A group of people. We want an environment of entrepreneurialism. Our system affords the ability for someone to come in and be successful from the first day if they out-hustle our competition. Seniority means nothing. We have full transparency when it comes to salary and commission. Everyone comes in at the same salary and with the same commission plan. Anyone can figure out what everyone else makes in the office. We don’t have ceilings here, we are happy to write large commission checks as it means that person is doing very well for our company. Our culture is one that gives our people the ability to get out what they put in. We have fun with everything. With big winners or new customers, we ring our huge bell and the place goes crazy. If someone gets hung up on in the sales group, they yell it out and we all clap. We have the Ambition TV system and every time someone reaches a milestone, their theme song goes off for everyone to hear. Most importantly, we are cheerleaders for each other and the company. We compete hard, but we know as we grow, we get stronger. We all feel like we are part of something greater than ourselves. It becomes a movement!

Jeff Jackson

Market President, First Tennessee

We put our customers, communities, and employees first, because everything we do is for them! Our employees are a vital part of our team. We work to win together and try to have a good time doing it. To do that, we give our people the tools, training, and support they need to be successful. At First Tennessee, we promote open lines of communication and a culture based on honesty and trust. If someone sees something wrong, we ask that person to bring it up so we can find solutions. We’re always looking at how we can best serve our customers and our employees. Reinvesting in our community is also important for us. Giving back to the community is a part of our culture and a vital part of who we are as a company.


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