Written by Barb Consiglio.
It is always the hard work of a company’s employees that drives the business forward. And one of the best ways to attract and retain the right talent is to create an attractive culture where people want to work. John Gadd, CEO of Hotcards, a design and printing company in Cleveland, Ohio, knows this first-hand. He says company culture is the glue that holds their team together.
“Hotcards’ success is a direct result of the culture everyone here has embraced,” said Gadd. “It’s something I take very seriously, which is why I’m always working to improve our work environment.”
Gadd says every entrepreneur should decide what they want their unique culture to be, and offers these tips for implementing it successfully:
Hire employees with passion for your company’s mission.
When hiring, look beyond a resume to a person’s personality and interests. This will help you determine if they’re the right fit. Everyone at your startup should have the same goal and be excited to work toward that goal every day. Gadd says the common mission for his company is to help their customers spread the word about their businesses. He says the first time Hotcards ships a box of business cards to a startup company, his entire team relishes the moment an entrepreneur opens the box and sees their name and logo on marketing materials for the first time.
“We built a culture around helping businesses find success,” said Gadd. “We just helped a coffee shop launch a food truck. The owner was so excited to be a part of the food truck revolution, and receiving their business cards from Hotcards validated their plan. That’s what it’s all about for me and everyone who works here.”
A positive culture starts with leadership.
Startup companies are constantly evolving, but the values and culture are established early, and that comes from the top. Employees feed off the energy of company leadership, whether it’s positive or negative, and that energy is not easy to change once it becomes ingrained. It is important to exhibit the values and attitude that you want your employees to adopt.
“If you’re hiring your first employee, it’s important to establish those core values on day one,” said Gadd. “It should be spelled out in writing and given to prospective employees so they can decide if it’s something they want to be a part of. That’s why we’ve written our Culture Book at Hotcards, which is given to everyone before they are hired.”
Celebrate accomplishments and let loose.
Celebrating company and individual achievements and milestones makes employees feel appreciated, and helps them feel like an integral part of a company’s success. It can be as simple as an email saying, “job well done,” or a company-wide event that allows everyone to get to know each other outside of work.
“Acknowledging hard work and assuring employees that they are appreciated goes a long way,” said Gadd. “Try to organize events at least once a quarter to let employees know that you recognize their efforts.”
Create a collaborative space that fosters creativity.
The Hotcards office is a modern, open space without cubicles or office walls. Employees work next to each other, often at standing workstations with music playing in the background. Gadd says this allows them to bounce ideas off each other and creates an easy-going environment that employees enjoy coming to every day.
“You don’t have to be Google and have slides and ping pong tables in your office. You just want to keep the mood up and the energy flowing,” said Gadd. “Offices where everyone works silently in their cubicles tend to have a lot of tension. You want people to feel like they can talk to each other and collaborate.”
Hotcards is an online printing and design company in Cleveland, Ohio, that allows customers to customize anything from postcards to yard signs. They work with local customers like the Cleveland Clinic and The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as well as corporations like Google and Key Bank. Gadd recently inspired other entrepreneurs at this year’s Startup Scaleup presented by JumpStart, a northeast Ohio partner of Ohio Third Frontier.