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Company Culture

Video: How to be an All-Star at Work. A Peek Inside TakeLessons.com.

By Business Philosophy, Company Culture, Start-Ups, TakeLessons.com, Videos 2 Comments

If there’s one thing I’ve learned over the past couple years, it’s how critical it is to get the right team in place. The right team is more costly, takes longer to attract, but it pays for itself in spades by a quicker velocity and overall growth.

As we shift into a faster growth mode inside of TakeLessons, I wanted to paint a picture for my team on what it takes to be hired and, more importantly, what it takes to be an all-star. The company is growing fast, and we need people that have already been at the spot we’re going to be, and/or quickly assimilate into new roles, objectives, and way of doing business.

The lessons I’m teaching my team are not just applicable to those that work for TakeLessons, but they’re relevant to everyone in the workplace that aspires to grow into new roles and expand their work horizons.

  • Earn your spot on the team. It’s not given to you.
  • Get shit done.
  • Over-perform.
  • Do more than what you’re paid for.
  • Be responsible for your own growth.

So, I hope you take something valuable from this video and apply it into your own work. A transcript follows the video.

 

 

Transcript

I want to again bring to the forefront of what we’re looking to do and how we’re looking to make changes.

In essence we’re looking at a change of mindset. This is where we were – down here – and this is where we want to be – up here.

What does that mean?

I’m glad we’re a venture-backed company – less than 5% of the people that can even apply to be a venture-backed company have what it takes to get there. We’re about to be backed again – we can’t yet make a formal announcement – but we have a very good possibility that again our venture capitalists believe in us and our vision and what we’re trying to do, to where we’re going to be able to extend out what we’re looking to accomplish this year.

But with that comes responsibility. This again is what is expected of you.

First of all: very clear strategic thinking. You have to – everyone, including myself – and everyone in here – we have to raise our game as far as how we think. We have to be able to solve customer problems and work in an efficient and in a better manner.

Second of all, we’ve talked about this: Bold ideas. No longer can we just be satisfied doing the same thing and building our company. We have built an incredible platform that can be used and we’re going to utilize it to the best of our capacity.

Third, and the most critical – this is a requirement for flawless execution. What that means is we’re going to put our best foot forward, and this means making mistakes. We will quickly learn from those mistakes and fix them – absolutely as quickly as possible.

As I pointed out before, we are not a family. In a family, you can’t choose who you get. With family, you basically have to love them no matter what.

Instead, we are a team – and what that means is every single day, every month, every year, we earn our spots to stay on this team. All of us do, including myself. We do that by making sure that we are rock stars at what we do.

Sometime’s it’s not even enough just to make the team. Everyone can make the team in this room, because you are all very, very smart, intelligent, capable, awesome people – thank you very much and take a pat on the back – but what we want is All-Stars. Think of yourself as an All-Star. It’s not even enough to play pro ball. What we want is to be able to take that to the next level.

How to be an All-Star at Work

The big question is: How can you become an All-Star? I want to just go through a few quick tips for you on how to be an All-Star here at TakeLessons.

Get Shit Done.

The top thing that you can do no matter what is: get shit done. We’re not paid to show up. We’re not paid to look busy. We’re not paid to fill out a cubicle. We are paid to get shit done.

That is in essence what drives this business. We’re not here just to goof off. We’re here to take the most important task and make sure that we’re completing them.

How do we do that? First and foremost, make sure up front that you have very clear, specific goals in what you’re trying to do.

If you don’t know your outcome, if you don’t know where you’re shooting, you’re going to have a hard time getting there.

How many of you have written goals for 2013?

It’s very, very critical to do that. Again, you’re going to have a direct path. You know what you’re supposed to be focusing on. If you don’t have written goals, I highly encourage you to do so, both personally – and it’s required – professionally.

If you do not know what your goals are here inside the company, talk to your manager today before you go home. Make sure that you have a very specific plan about what you need to accomplish.

Once you have those goals, always focus on first things first. What does that mean? If you’re like me, I have a list a mile long of stuff that I need to do. There’s always more things to do than there is time to do it.

How do you know what to do?

Make sure you’re prioritizing your list every single day. Never do a “B” or a “C” priority when there is an “A” priority to do. That’s the simple key. If you know that you can do an “A,” do it first thing in the morning.

I was talking to one of you last week, who said, “Yeah, I’m trying to get more time efficient. How do I get more done?” One thing that this person was doing was coming in, reading emails, and catching up on the news the very first thing in the morning. It is related to the company? Yes, it’s important to do, but it’s not absolute top priority.

What we did is switch that around: what they’re doing is they’re taking the biggest thing that would make the highest impact on the company and making sure that they do it first.

Brian Tracy calls it eating that frog. It’s a metaphor: no one wants to eat a frog anytime, but you specifically don’t want to eat it in the morning when you get up. It’s the toughest thing to do.

If you can take that highest task, the ugliest thing to do (like a frog), that makes the biggest impact on the company, do it when you’re the freshest: first in the morning. That’s how you accomplish things.

Put up the Numbers.

If you do those things, you are going to put up incredible numbers. I don’t necessarily just mean sales numbers, but whatever you’re measured up against: you’re going to put up incredible, incredible numbers.

You guys know who this is?

[“Miguel Cabrera.”]

Anybody know what he did?

[“Triple Crown.” “He lost the world Series.”]

The Triple Crown. He got on base, basically with the highest batting average, the most home runs, throughout the most people of anyone in his league.

Does this guy ever have to worry about a job?

[“No.”]

Why? Because he’s an All-Star.

This is what I’m talking about. This is not the rules of TakeLessons. These are rules of life.

I was at a conference and someone said, “I’m afraid to work for a startup because I need job security.”

It doesn’t matter if you work for a big company or a small company. Job security is not in the job, it is in being an All-Star. It is putting up incredible numbers. That is what gets you to where you need to go. What’s great about that is you are the one in control of it. By deciding that that’s what you want to do, you’re going to knock it out of the park.

Master Your Role

Next, take a look at your role – focus on mastering and becoming awesome at that one role. Muhammad Ali was great at one thing: dancing, too,but he was an incredible boxer. He worked his ass off to make sure that he was the absolute best at his role.

Take your role and master it. Be the absolute best that you can possibly be and be an all-star in that particular role.

Help Your Teammates Win

It’s very important that you help your teammates win. Dwyane Wade could’ve taken the shot, but instead he passed the ball to LeBron.

This is a very important key. It’s not enough if one department wins. It’s not enough if you win and your department loses. We are all in this together. This company only works by all of us pulling together in the same direction.

Make sure that you’re an All-Star and then help someone else be an All-Star. if you know something that can help them, teach them. Share knowledge. Make sure that we’re collaborating back and forth.

Stay Flexible

Next, There’s a good possibility that whatever you’re doing today – by the end of the year – you’re not going to be doing that. It’s important to always stay flexible and know that things are going to change.

Did we have a year of 2012 that things change? Those of you who have been here a couple years, did things change?

[“Yes.”]

Hey, I can guarantee you one thing: if you look at today and where we’re going to be at the end of the year, things will fundamentally change in our business. Don’t get too hung up on exactly whow things are going to change. Roll with it, because I can guarantee you that no matter what, we’re going to look fundamentally different at the end of the year.

You are Responsible for Your Growth

Also, it is up to you to grow. The company can only do so much – we have restricted budgets, we don’t have systems in place yet for productive growth in a methodical manner for every single employee. We’re just not mature enough to get there. That is no excuse not to grow.

I’m reading 2-3 times a week at home. Why? Because I’m afraid that the company will pass me by. That’s something that I encourage each and every one of you to do. It’s up to you to have your own personal development program.

Like I pointed out in the last meeting: when things grow, you leave your comfort zone – and when you leave your comfort zone, that’s when the magic happens. That’s when you can continue to grow past where you are today and be able to take on – and it’s not just about production but it’s about how your capacity to produce increases. And this is how you become that All-Star.

Do More Than You’re Paid For

Finally, I was studying Napoleon Hill’s 17 Laws of Success and he said the number one way that you can make sure that you stay with the company that you want, or that you are always promotable is to do more than what you’re paid for.

What does that mean?

That means that if you are worth “X” – down here – and you are doing work at a level up here, it is impossible for you not to get noticed. Think about our customers – if we give them more value than what they’re paying for, they love us.

That’s the thing: if you want to continue to grow, if you want to be an all-star, do more than what you think you’re capable of. That’s how you grow into this role.

They said Cabrera is the last guy standing when it comes to batting practice. Over and over again. He’s the All-Star. He’s the king of the team, yet he’s the guy who’s in there first taking batting practice and he’s the last guy standing. He knows the rules. He knows that this is what it takes.

When you do that, what happens is your work naturally stands out. You can’t help but to get noticed.

These are very simple rules of life. These are not TakeLessons rules. You can apply them to anything that you do.

By doing that, what happens – that comfort zone of what you’re capable of doing continues to grow. While you used to be a hot Corvette – now, you’re a burning, flaming fire! This is where you want to go. This is where we need to drive the company.

I know we have what it takes in here to build a world-class company. It is going to be up to each and every one of us to make sure that happens.

We’re off to a really good start, it’s 10 days into the first month, we are going to have an incredible year.

TakeLessons Reaching Out in Africa

By Business Philosophy, Company Culture, Politics and Social Thought No Comments

Here’s a note from one of our Product guys, Marc Wallis. I’m humbled that we’re able to do a small part to help people around the world. While we can’t do everything for everyone, it’s a good start to do something for somebody.

————

Hey TakeLessoner’s,

I wanted to recap and update on what TakeLessons is doing in Africa:

This past July, I was able to travel to Swaziland, Africa on a humanitarian trip. It was an amazing experience. Swaziland is tiny country the size of New Jersey at the very bottom of the continent. It is a beautiful place with incredible people. It is known in the international community for two primary reasons:

First, it is the last absolute monarchy on the continent. Ever see Coming to America with Eddie Murphy and James Earl Jones?….pretty much sums it up.

Second, it has the highest rate of HIV/AIDS in the world – close to 45%…not really a stat you wanna be known for…

Because of the high rate of AIDS, the 20 – 40yr old demographic, who are the most likely to contract the disease, are disappearing, leaving a huge orphan population to fend for themselves. Luckily, there are many great organizations springing up to help combat the disease and the social/economic problems it creates.

Different charities run small orphanages/after school programs called “care points.” Each care point helps anywhere from 30 – 300 kids, and they are in desperate need of supplies – especially clothing for the kids who often have only one tattered shirt.

TakeLessons was able to help the care points with:

  • Shirts (many kids are cold in the winter. Our shirts will keep them warm. Maybe he’ll be one of our teachers one day. Once Online lessons go global that is)
  • Money for instruments. With the instruments we bought, they are now starting small music schools at the care points!

It is incredible to see this program growing, and to see how music is such a part of the healing process for these kids who have experienced so much loss. It really does give them hope and a way for them to express themselves.

Thank YOU!

Without you, providing instruments and hope through music to these kids would not have been possible. TakeLessons is growing because we all kick ass at our jobs everyday, and seek to be our best here. And growth/profitability for our company means we are in a better position to help with projects like this, and “inspire a new generation of artists through music.”

If anyone has questions about the work we’re doing in Swaziland or wanted to help grow the fledgling music program that we started, let me know!!

Thanks

Marc Wallis
Project Manager: Product:  TakeLessons.com

Creating Corporate Culture: Interview with John Assaraf Part 9 and 10

By Business Philosophy, Company Culture, Entrepreneur Insights, Speaking, Start-Ups, TakeLessons.com, Videos No Comments

John Assaraf sat down with Steven Cox, CEO of TakeLessons.com, to discuss what it means to create and maintain a thriving corporate culture. In this interview, Cox defines corporate culture, outlines steps entrepreneurs can take to define their company’s culture and shows how a strong culture can translate into other great gains for any organization.

Part 9 in the video series. Subscribe for email alerts when more videos are posted.

Part 10 in the video series. Subscribe for email alerts when more videos are posted.

Creating Corporate Culture – Part 1

Creating Corporate Culture – Part 2

Creating Corporate Culture – Part 3

Creating Corporate Culture – Part 4

Creating Corporate Culture – Part 5

Creating Corporate Culture – Part 6

Creating Corporate Culture – Part 7

Creating Corporate Culture – Part 8

Cox: Because of the belief system that we have, we do not treat people that way. Nor will we be treated that way. It’s just the value system that we had that was correct for us and it was the best thing that we’ve ever done for the culture of the company. It wasn’t planned. These sorts of serendipitous things will happen in your own organization as you grow and you find out that when push comes to shove, you’re not going to deviate from this.

Assaraf: This is what I stand for.

C: This is what I stand for. People still tell that story today in the company about how we do things. The third value we have is Build Stuff You’re Proud Of. And the story on this is, being a tech company, we had been involved, not as owners, but as workers at other tech companies where what they tried to do throughout the nineties is do just enough to make it look like they had a product to get some sucker to buy them and sell their company to another company. We decided early on that we didn’t want to be one of those sorts of companies. We wanted to do something that we could look back on and we wanted to build a site that we’re very, very proud of. That has resonated with us and kept us very, very true to what we do.

If given the choice between building things right and building things quick, we choose building it right. In the tech world, that means we move a little bit slower than others. We’ve been round and round with investors about that but at the same time, we want to build things the right way. That has expanded out from technology into every area of the company. So if you’re in Customer Support, have calls you’re proud of. If you’re in Marketing or Sales, sell things that you’re proud of, cut deals that you’re proud of. Write code that you’re proud of. All this means is contributing in such a way that it makes a positive, lasting difference in millions of people. See how now it ties in with our core purpose.

A: It ties in with your purpose. You get that?

C: So the values systems stack up and start resonating together.

A: I love this stuff.

C: This next one, this is my own personal litmus test. The way I describe it is, I want to build stuff I’m proud of. What am I proud of? This is my grandfather, he’s 92 and I want to build things that my grandfather would use and be proud of using. For me, he’s the best guy I know, the most honest guy and he’s my personal litmus test. If you can find this sort of thing for you, then you know. You’re always faced in business with so much opportunity. The big key is being able to decide what to say no to. You’ll have lots and lots of opportunities to say yes, lots of people pulling you in different directions. If you can learn to say no based on a value system, it makes the world a lot easier.

A: Make your default “no” and then move to “yes” is what I always tell people because we’re all so wanting to help everyone else. We have this opportunity and this opportunity and we need to start saying no to everything and moving towards yes and having reasons for moving towards yes, then that gives you a much easier framework to deal with. Love that.

C: Absolutely.

A: CANI!

C: CANI! You’re very familiar with that. This one is borrowed from Anthony Robbins…

A: Who borrowed it from the Japanese Kai Zen.

C: Right, it’s all borrowed and that’s okay. You don’t have to come up with these yourself but what’s important is that it’s true. And this is one of my own personal beliefs and it ties in with the innovation of the company. As a company, growth isn’t serendipitous, growth isn’t okay; it’s required. It’s a big difference. You can feel the difference even as I say that. We are expected when we’re hiring someone in they know today is great, tomorrow’s got to be better. Tomorrow after that has to be better. Not only as a company but we actually want you as a person to grow. Because we believe if we can get you to grow and to learn these life lessons and set goals, we teach people to set goals within the company, accomplish those goals, you can apply that to your personal life, apply that to your business life. In general, that makes you a happier person. Happier people are just cooler to work with.

Part 10 in the video series. Subscribe for email alerts when more videos are posted.

Assaraf: Let me ask you a question. When you say, today is okay, tomorrow’s gonna be better, the next day is gonna be even better than that, I want to make sure people get this distinction. It’s not that you’re not or we’re not good enough today, right? What I hear and what I know of you is, we’re capable of growing individually, professionally, personally and as a business if we have this focus on just getting better. Not from a scarcity or negative perspective; it’s from a human growth and fulfill our potential perspective. That’s the message that you share with your employees.

Cox: Exactly. If you go back to the prior value of Respect for yourself, I have no problem telling my team and them telling me and everyone in the company going, wow, we are really awesome. In fact, I expect that. We want awesome people. We want them to be able to look and say, I absolutely rock. And, that’s good enough for today. Tomorrow I am going to rock even harder. That’s just what we do as a company. We are totally accepting that we are awesome as we are, and I say that actually in a very humble way, it’s not in a bragging way. No matter how awesome we are today, what we do know is the world keeps moving. Things keep going on and part of the joy is keeping up and getting ahead.

A: And by the way, what I want to make sure that you’re all in agreement and accordance with is that these are Steven’s and his team’s values, alright? They’re not yours. If they happen to be yours, that’s great, but this isn’t about taking Steven’s and his company’s values and making them yours. This is really about identifying your own and living that truth, that purpose, that value system, so that you’re living your life for your purpose and what you stand for and what you stand against as well. Some people might say, oh my God, that’s too much pressure, I don’t want that kind of pressure. Well, he thrives in it and so do I. Other people say, oh my God, if tomorrow’s got to be better than yesterday and the day before, I’m in chaos, I don’t like that, that’s cool. But you find people in your team that that’s cool with as well so that you make your growth and your day to day life easier to handle and manage.

C: Right. Someone’s value system could be, I don’t live to work, I work to live, or something, which means I am going to limit my time to 30 hours a week. That could be someone’s value system and that’s just as relevant for them as our value systems are for us. So again, back to Lady Gaga, there is no right or wrong culture. It’s finding what’s true for you.

A: That’s the key.

C: Our final value is Perseverance. We’ve defined that as certainty in the face of obstacles. This really came from a story and I’m sure this will resonate with you guys as well. We were trying out different models and again, we were self-funded, and we were basically down to a couple paychecks left. We weren’t making a lot of money to start with. All the guys were taking a discount on what they should be earning. It was basically down to the wire and I said, guys, we either have to do something this month and make this happen or we’re not going to be around next month. So, what do you want to do? It was quiet in the room and they were all kind of sitting there and they said, well, we better work hard then. We better get back to work. It was the perseverance of not even accepting the idea that we would quit. Quitting is not an option. It’s easy to say, it’s harder to do when you’re down to the last dime, knowing that, hey, if we don’t make something happen it’s going to be a difficult situation here in just a couple weeks. And it was those sorts of things that we’ve applied in different areas of the company as well. It’s perseverance when we’ve kicked off several versions of the website and we thought it was awesome and we did testing and it completely bombed. What we did is we simply back-tracked and we tried it again. So now we have a culture of innovation where trying things is cool and the expectation of failure is okay. In other words, the idea of not trying something because it might fail, is just completely not within our value system at all.

Creating Corporate Culture – Part 1

Creating Corporate Culture – Part 2

Creating Corporate Culture – Part 3

Creating Corporate Culture – Part 4

Creating Corporate Culture – Part 5

Creating Corporate Culture – Part 6

Creating Corporate Culture – Part 7

Creating Corporate Culture – Part 8

 

Creating Corporate Culture – John Assaraf Interview Part 8

By Business Philosophy, Company Culture, Entrepreneur Insights, Speaking, Start-Ups, TakeLessons.com, Videos No Comments

John Assaraf sat down with Steven Cox, CEO of TakeLessons.com, to discuss what it means to create and maintain a thriving corporate culture. In this interview, Cox defines corporate culture, outlines steps entrepreneurs can take to define their company’s culture and shows how a strong culture can translate into other great gains for any organization.

Part 8 in the video series. Subscribe for email alerts when more videos are posted.

More from this series:

Creating Corporate Culture – Part 1

Creating Corporate Culture – Part 2

Creating Corporate Culture – Part 3

Creating Corporate Culture – Part 4

Creating Corporate Culture – Part 5

Creating Corporate Culture – Part 6

Creating Corporate Culture – Part 7

 

Cox: We hire customer support reps and they are normally in college. It’s kind of a part time job, sometimes a full time job right out of school, and we say the same thing to them. Guys, this is your company as well. Your job here is not to do your job. Your job here is to please the customer but also to make sure your job gets better, to come and take it to the next level. Why? That’s what owners do. We have a whole bunch of examples of what this looks like. I’m not going to read all of them, but you can get an idea of the detail that we go into to describe what an ownership mentality looks like.

Assaraf: So that’s why you say there’s the words “Ownership Mentality” but then you’ve really taken the time to define what that means and then you find people, vendors, suppliers, who really resonate with that Ownership Mentality, whether they’re providing you with a service or whether you’re providing your customer with a service, whether you’re a guitar teacher or a piano teacher, regardless of who you’re dealing with, you look for those qualities to do business together because of the nucleus that creates.

C: Right. That’s a great segue into our second core value, which is Respect, for yourself and others. That basically means we expect people to value themselves as well as to value others highly, meaning the customer, the supplier, the service provider, everybody. It came down to an interesting story and you’ll find these in your own company as well. We were a team of five people and this was before we had done our first round of venture financing and I was funding the business and we weren’t making any money.

A: He was the bank! Many of you are the bank right now!

C: I was the bank. Believe me, I feel your pain a lot. We went five years before we took our first round. We scraped by, we bootstrapped. There was a time in our business when we were selling leads to an instructor, and this is the model we did. Very similar to Google AdWords, we’d sell on a lead acquisition type model.

A: So you were generating leads online and selling those leads to people who were guitar instructors and you’d make your money by selling those leads, so that was your initial business model that you morphed and changed, which a business will do, morph and change over time. I just want to give them some of the underlying lessons; I don’t want them to think they’ve got to be where they want to be at.

C: Right. Along those lines, a little off topic, in essence there’s something in the tech world that’s called pivoting. What that means is, you can normally expect your business, if it’s a tech business, to pivot three or four times before you get your model right. It’s very simply that you have to keep going. This is the third start up I’ve done and it still took us three pivots to figure out what the customer really really wanted out of us. So this was the second pivot we were in. First we had done a subscription model and that didn’t really work so then we did lead generation and that was this model.

There was this one particular group buying leads from us, I won’t name names, but they made up about 30% of our business and they were just buying a tank-load of leads from us. We had one single customer service rep at the time and her name was Lori. Lori was on the phone with this person, we’ll call her “Jill”, her name wasn’t “Jill”, but she was on the phone with “Jill” and what happened was “Jill” couldn’t get her computer working right. Lori was trying to help her but she just had a browser from the 1800’s and Lori said, “I think if you update your browser everything would be taken care of” and this person said, “Oh, it’s my fault? I’ll have you know that your site sucks and you probably don’t even know what you’re talking about because you’re just a customer support rep and I went to Brown. Do you know what Brown is? Brown is an Ivy League school. Do you know what that is?” and starts berating Lori right there in front of the team.

We were a team of five; she made up 30% of our sales. It was at that moment in time, all of us kind of looked at each other and the lady demanded to talk to me. So I got on the phone and I said, “Hey, I just want to let you know that you are now making me choose between my team and you and you are going to lose that battle every time.”

A: Even though she was providing you with 30% of your revenue?

C: We fired her on the spot.

A: The client?

C: We fired the client on the spot.

More from this series:

Creating Corporate Culture – Part 1

Creating Corporate Culture – Part 2

Creating Corporate Culture – Part 3

Creating Corporate Culture – Part 4

Creating Corporate Culture – Part 5

Creating Corporate Culture – Part 6

Creating Corporate Culture – Part 7

 

Creating Corporate Culture – John Assaraf Interview Part 7

By Business Philosophy, Company Culture, Entrepreneur Insights, Speaking, Start-Ups, TakeLessons.com, Videos No Comments

Part 7 in the video series. Subscribe for email alerts when more videos are posted.

More from this series:

Creating Corporate Culture – Part 1

Creating Corporate Culture – Part 2

Creating Corporate Culture – Part 3

Creating Corporate Culture – Part 4

Creating Corporate Culture – Part 5

Creating Corporate Culture – Part 6

John Assaraf sat down with Steven Cox, CEO of TakeLessons.com, to discuss what it means to create and maintain a thriving corporate culture. In this interview, Cox defines corporate culture, outlines steps entrepreneurs can take to define their company’s culture and shows how a strong culture can translate into other great gains for any organization.

Assaraf: So before you get into that, Kristen, does anyone have any questions so far? I want this to be about learning and part of learning is also understanding. So, does anyone have any questions? If you do, let’s take one or two questions right now. If you don’t, then we’ll let Steven keep going. Kristen?

Kristen: Yes, we have a question from Evan. He says, who defines the culture, the directors or the directors along with the employees?

Cox: That’s a great, great question Evan. How many employees does Evan have, do we know?

Assaraf: It’s hard to get a feel for that.

Cox: It’s interesting because we’ve just asked this question again now that we’re at several hundred employees. I personally believe that there is a core group of people that starts by defining what those value systems are and they’re the ones who kind of set the pace for everybody else. They’re the leaders in the company. Then what happens is, folks coming in later have to believe that value system right from the beginning. We don’t teach people Ownership Mentality; they either have it or they don’t. We don’t teach people that you need to constantly improve. The people that come into our company, they want to come in because what they tell us is, these are things that I already believe anyway.

A: If you want to know about the Law of Attraction, for all you “Attractionaires” out there, that’s the Law of Attraction at it’s very finest. You define your nucleus and find people who that resonates with; that’s already what they’re doing and thinking and behave like and that’s the core of resonance right there.

C: Right. Now Evan, the second part of this is there’s a value system and then there’s a set of behaviors that help shape those value systems. And what we believe as a company and what’s right for us is we’ve established a value system that will not change and that we won’t deviate from. Within those value systems, there are behaviors and there’s changes in the marketplace. With every new person coming in, what happens is they adhere to the value system but then they’re free to create their individuality within that. So what we look for are people who naturally believe the value system. Then out of that, we get a tremendous level of creativity within this value system. So we’ve provided the guard rails, and the amount of beautiful activity that happens within the guard rails is exceptional. We do things that I never thought of. Our best ideas, how we embrace that culture and how we enforce that culture does not even come from me now. It comes from some of the employees that are working closest with the customer. Everyone gets their say in what that is without the movement of the structure. Does that make sense?

A: Totally. Hopefully that answers your question. Do we have another one?

Kristen: Yeah, we have another one from Richard. What if I want to keep my company’s personnel size small. I do not want to create a large corporate job for myself.

C: The rules still stay, if it’s a five, ten person company.

A: Even three or four.

C: Yes, three or four. Find three or four people that absolutely resonate with your reason for being, with your own value system. And again, the number doesn’t matter; it gets tougher to do with more people. But the idea is that you’re true to your nucleus. You’re true to your core. And all three, four, four hundred people, the number doesn’t matter, are all moving in the same direction based on a value system that you can all get behind.

A: Awesome. Thank you so much Richard. Let’s let you continue some of your core values, how you designed this and what’s happening with the company.

C: Sure. So our first core value is Ownership Mentality, and what that basically means is we look for people who treat the company as if it were their own. We reinforce that with the idea that you are responsible for your own actions and you are responsible for making sure that the company is growing in the manner that it should. The way we reinforce that is that at any given point in the company, if someone sees something that’s out of line or out of whack with our value system, they have the right as well as the obligation to speak up and say something. So it’s not a hierarchical system where people can’t come to me and say that I’m full of crap. Because they can if they really believe that. Ultimately, you are responsible for the results of the company. That means if you see a piece of trash laying on the ground, you pick it up. Why? Because that’s what owners do. You do not punch a clock. Why? Because owners don’t punch the clock. And we look for people who share those same values, that are looking for that entrepreneurial spirit. This whole idea was formed because we wouldn’t have been in business early if we didn’t find people who had that natural ownership ability. So that’s why it was very key to us and it’s just been resonating throughout the company.

More from this series:

Creating Corporate Culture – Part 1

Creating Corporate Culture – Part 2

Creating Corporate Culture – Part 3

Creating Corporate Culture – Part 4

Creating Corporate Culture – Part 5

Creating Corporate Culture – Part 6

Creating Corporate Culture – John Assaraf Interview Part 6

By Business Philosophy, Company Culture, Entrepreneur Insights, Speaking, Start-Ups, TakeLessons.com, Videos No Comments

Part 6 in the video series. Subscribe for email alerts when more videos are posted.

More from this series:

Creating Corporate Culture – Part 1

Creating Corporate Culture – Part 2

Creating Corporate Culture – Part 3

Creating Corporate Culture – Part 4

Creating Corporate Culture – Part 5

John Assaraf sat down with Steven Cox, CEO of TakeLessons.com, to discuss what it means to create and maintain a thriving corporate culture. In this interview, Cox defines corporate culture, outlines steps entrepreneurs can take to define their company’s culture and shows how a strong culture can translate into other great gains for any organization.

Assaraf: And your BHAG is?

Cox: We want to be a billion dollar company within six years.

A: With a “B”. Six years, a billion dollar company, and I’d bet my money on him achieving it, trust me.

C: And the second part of that, we want to be a billion dollar company but we also want to be one of America’s top one hundred companies to work for. So for our value system, both of these things have to produce well; the ecosystem of the way we’re making money and the way we develop people. So let’s talk a little bit about our core values and how they came about. So, we had been in business for a couple years, and core values aren’t the kind of thing that you sit down one day and say, “Steven said we need core values so let me write some things down because I think they’ll help me make money.” These are things that you actually just discover as you start working with people, again even if you’re a one man or woman operation, you’ll know these about yourself. Over time, we came up with five core values and I’ll show you how we got to those core values here in a minute. So we have five core values that we developed over time as well as a core purpose and a reason for being. We exist to make a positive lasting impact on millions of people. We specifically picked every single word of that reason for being. We exist not to make a lasting impact, but it has to be positive. We exist not just to make an impact, but it has to be lasting. So we want to be involved in business that is good, holistic by nature, that has the ability to make something that people remember long term, that has the long term impact. It’s not enough for us to make an impact on hundreds of people. That’s a good start but it doesn’t excite me. Knowing my value system, I need huge impact, millions of people.

A: So let me ask you a question. When you started six years ago, did you start off with here are my five core values and here is my core purpose and reason for being?

C: No.

A: I want everyone to understand that. This is an evolution. You’re seeing six years experience that could help you get there a lot faster, these great ideas.

C: Yes. Again, this is something that’s discovered over time and it’s things that you look at and say, how do I know that that’s my core value? It’s things you look at and say, if other people or the marketplace were to turn on me because I had these values, I would still have them. And that’s the true litmus test.

A: So if the marketplace or others would turn on you, you’d still keep those values.

C: That’s right. Even if it’s detrimental to the company; to us and our ability to make money, would we still do this?

A: That’s your core essence. That’s your nucleus, what we’re talking about. You are your nucleus no matter how many divisions there are or what happens. You are the nucleus.

C: And if you can find that, what you have is a True North. You have the ability to understand why you’re in business, as Simon Sinek says, the power of understanding why you want to do things instead of just how or when. There’s an interesting thing that happened throughout the company that I’ll share with you. The core people, we had a core group of about five or six people that were there when we started and those people again are all still with us, and these core values really resonated with us. But as we started hiring people and we started bringing them on and we started training them in core values, we would say, these are our core values and they would kind of shake their head. We found out that when we started describing them, they had different views of what they meant than we did. It really helped us understand that when you build a culture it’s not enough to say, here are my values. We have to get descriptive of what that value means. So I’d like to walk through a couple of our values and explain. My value may be different from yours. And as a company, this allows us to look at someone and say does this person coming in resonate with the value system as we have described it?

Part 6 in the video series. Subscribe for email alerts when more videos are posted.

More from this series:

Creating Corporate Culture – Part 1

Creating Corporate Culture – Part 2

Creating Corporate Culture – Part 3

Creating Corporate Culture – Part 4

Creating Corporate Culture – Part 5