Creating Corporate Culture – John Assaraf Interview – Part 5

| October 1, 2012 | Reply

Part 5 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

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 let’s get into how you designed culture, because you’ve taken the time in your old offices, in your spectacular new office and I’ve seen your growth over the last year and a half two years. You did this by design. You didn’t do this by luck. You said this is who I am, this is what I stand for. You had your initial core employees who you brought on board and most of them are still with you.

Cox: That’s correct.

A: You’ve built a 300 person company now and growing at lightening speed. How did you design this?

C: First of all, I’d like to show you another chart here. This is our revenue growth. Without any numbers attached to it, you can see that that’s exactly the kind of growth that companies like to see. When I say what I am about to tell you, I do attribute our growth to culture. Good strategy, smart people, it’s a must, but how we got those people on the bus is absolutely key to what we do.

First of all, just a little background on what we do. In essence, we’re America’s largest music lesson company. We give music lessons, and these are personal one on one lessons, in a customer’s home or at a studio in 3,000 cities across the US. When we first started, we started with the idea, how do we revolutionize services on the web? We wanted to do something that was powerful. We wanted to do something that truly made a difference from a technical perspective and use technology to drive services on to the web. I wasn’t 22 anymore; I was now in my 30’s and being a student of yours and Brian Tracey and those sorts of people it was very important to me that not only do I build a company but that I make a difference along the way.

So when we first started off, it was from design, like you mentioned. We said, we are going to make sure and focus on as Jim Collins says, getting the right people on the bus. We looked and we looked and I brought a second person on board. His name is Chuck and he shared the same sort of values. That was six or seven years ago and Chuck is still with me today. I found Drew and Chris and they’re both still with me today. We talked to so many people and said, do you share the same value and core system that we have? We purposely designed a company in such a way that longterm you could take me out, you could take Chuck out, any of the cofounders, and the company would keep humming along, growing like crazy based on the value system, not necessarily based on a single individual.

A: And he will share the value system with you today so you understand this.

C: Yes.

A: Just so you know, we’re learning a ton from Steven and his team to bring these types of designs to Praxis Now also. So as Steven says he may have learned some stuff from me and Bryan and other individuals, we’re learning from him and we’re sharing back and forth all the time. One of the things that Steven does phenomenally well is personal and professional growth on a constant basis, CANI, constant and never ending improvement. He’s always willing to give and always willing to learn. So, I’ll let you keep going.

C: I’d like to show you a couple more slides to build credibility to show what the company is doing and to show our growth. These are our active paying customers that are growing. We have service providers, these are teachers, that actually give the lessons and you can see that this chart mimics the growth, which is what we want to see, even in the recession. So what I’d like to do is talk a little bit about what culture meant to us and how we went about defining our core values. Culture is a combination of the language we use within the company and the symbols, stories that we have, how we work amongst each other, how we work amongst our suppliers and our service providers as well, as well as how we make decisions as to what’s right and what’s wrong for the company.

About 5 to 6 years ago I was reading a book by Jim Collins, Good to Great, and if you haven’t read the book I highly recommend it. It’s an incredible book written by an exceptional author. Basically, he says the way that you get to a vision is you have to be very, very clear on what things you value and what is your key reason for being in business, the core purpose. And that is something that does not change. That is something that is core to what you do. Then you marry that with what we call the envisioned future and that is, you look long term. He calls it BHAG’s, if you’re familiar with that.

A: Big Hairy Audacious Goals

C: Right. These are things that if you were actually to tell them to people in the general public, this is where I want to go as a company, they’d kinda look at you like you’re crazy, like your head’s popped off. The typical response is, “you’ll never do that.” And that means you’ve got a perfect BHAG.

Part 5 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

 

 

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Category: At Work, Business Philosophy, Company Culture, Entrepreneur Insights, Speaking, Start-Ups, TakeLessons.com, Videos