August 29, 2010
In my post Friday on the most important business lessons I’ve learned at iContact, lesson ten was:
“10. If you create a great culture (a fun work environment filled with people who are high performers and who care about their work and their impact on the world) you will be able to attract and retain better people who will be much more engaged and productive and create a much more financially successful company.”
Recently I’ve been reading four wonderful books that have helped me ‘go to school’ on the tremendous value of building company culture and the revenue growth than can be achieved when you can align profit, purpose, and meaning for your team. These are:
- Peak: How Great Companies Get their Mojo from Maslow by Chip Conley
- Firms of Endearment: How World Class Companies Profit from Passion and Purpose by Raj Sisodia, Jag Sheth, and David Wolfe
- The Dream Manager by Matthew Kelly
- The Future of Management by Gary Hamel
This post is to share a bit about what the iContact Culture is like today, in the words of our current employees. In future posts I’ll describe an effort we’re about to embark on to make the iContact Culture a core part of what differentiates our company, with the help these authors, many of which Tony Hsieh of Zappos turned me on to.
How iContact Employees Describe Our Current Culture
Last week we held our first ever Culture Committee Meeting at iContact over lunch one day. I started off by asking the group to write down words that described our culture.
The words that came up more than once from the group were:
These were pretty powerful words.
Other words mentioned by employees to describe the iContact culture were:
|Mission-focused||Intellectual||Professional yet wacky||Agile||Thoughtful|
How Would You Describe the iContact Culture In a Sentence to a Friend?
I then asked the group to write a sentence they’d use to describe iContact Culture to a friend. Recently I’ve been describing the culture as a “high energy performance based culture that cares.” The group wrote:
- iContact is an open, supportive, and respectful place where employees can make their setting their own and have a say in influencing their own experience
- iContact is an organization that is driving forward the deliverance of a product surrounded by a team that shares their personal excellence with the world
- iContact is a diverse group of individuals from all walks of life that come together as a team to both achieve and help others succeed
- iContact is a company that consciously seeks uniqueness
- iContact is a dynamic team-centric company that effectively balances customers, employees, and the world
- iContact has a fun atmosphere where each individuals ideas and work are recognized
- iContact is comprised of interdependent teams working to solve problems together
- iContact is an exciting place to work due to the energy put forth by each employee every day
- iContact understands that individual and team growth equals company growth
What Makes the iContact Culture Unique?
I then asked the group to share some of the things they felt made iContact unique as a company. They wrote:
- We are fast-growing while becoming open and more agile as we grow
- We believe in what we say and we act based on that belief
- We practice openness
- We have a holistic approach to business in terms of our impact on all stakeholders
- We are a socially responsible company
- We are transparent and have lots of giving back opportunities and a comfortable dress code
- We have unique wall murals
- We do business differently, our employees are empowered, we work hard and play hard, and we are actively committed to helping others
- We interview candidates to determine not if they are the best individual candidate but whether someone is going to fit in the team
- We have a commitment to the community and the 4-1s CSR program
- We have unique benefits like free unlimited sodas, monthly massages, annual car washes, Monday bagels, monthly lunches, monthly birthday cakes
- We produce a monthly YouTube company news video featuring sword fights between bees and knights, dancing, rapping, chocolate grasshopper eating, Batmen superhero fights, iron chef competitions, parades, and cross-dressing
- We have smoke machines and disco lights at monthly company meetings
- Our CFO has dressed up like a cheerleader and Michael Jackson
- Our CEO has shaved his head when we hit
- We have big anniversary celebrations with hot air balloons, dunk tanks, bouncy castles, inflatable slides, fire eaters, magicians, bluegrass music, and Carolina BBQ
- We go to the Durham Bulls baseball and Carolina Hurricanes hockey games as a company
- We have pot luck lunches, waffle and pancake parties, 3am code deploys, lots of plants and balloons, new hire donuts in technology, and Finance/HR annual ice cream socials, and summer picnics
So it’s fair to say we have a rather unique culture at iContact already.
But iContact is about to move into a new home in Morrisville, NC on October 23rd. We can use this opportunity to do even better.
I’ll be writing more about our company culture and our journey in the coming days and months.
Videos of the iContact Culture
Here are some of the videos that have been part of defining our unique culture over time, from the iContactTV YouTube Channel…
March 23, 2009
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Tony Hsieh, the 34 year old CEO of Zappos is giving a talk at the Underground web marketing seminar in Los Angeles. He sold LinkExchange to Microsoft for $265 million in 1998.
His speech is titled The Path to $1 Billion as they are on track to hit $1B in sales this year as a private company that started in 1999, did $8.6 million in 2000 and $32 million in 2001. They have 1,600 employees today and a 500 person call center.
Tony is emphasizing the importance of ‘above and beyond’ great customer service more or less regardless of cost. 75% of his orders are from repeat customers. He talks of ’surprise upgrades.’
Tony shared that they orient new team members with 4 weeks of customer loyalty training at their headquarters in Las Vegas plus week in Kentucky for warehouse training for every single employee. He tells the story of when a customer ordered pizza from their customer service line at 3am and the customer rep found the nearest pizza places in Santa Monica that were still open.
He encourages entrepreneurs to train great people if you want the company to scale as ‘you can’t do everything yourself.’ He provides a culture book to their team members each year. Every single team member writes a couple employee on what the culture means to them.
Their core company values are:
- Deliver WOW through service
- Embrace and drive change
- Create fun and little weirdness
- Be adventurous, creative, and open-minded
- Pursue growth and learning
- Build open and honest relationships with communication
- Build a positive team and family spirit
- Do more with less
- Be passionate and determined
- Be humble
I am wondering what their customer acquisition cost and customer lifetime value is and what their monthly CPM and CPC spend is and what networks they use to acquire customers via CPA.