What Makes a Good Work Culture?
A counter to last week's episode (and the second part of what could have been a really LONG episode) Rich and Catelin pivot to things that make a great work culture. Take a listen for the positive side of the work environment. (And because it's a continuation of last week, we've got the same cocktail this week. I know. Sort of a rip off. Sorry!)
- 1/2 ounces blackstrap rum
- 3/4 ounce Campari
- 1 1/2 ounces pineapple juice
- 1/2 ounce lime juice, freshly squeezed
- 1/2 ounce demerara syrup
- Garnish: pineapple wedge
This one dates back to the 1970s and is a fantastic summer cocktail.
- Add ice to your favorite cocktail shaker, then put in the rum, Campari, pineapple and lime juices, and demerara syrup. Shake it like your mother taught you until well chilled (Pro tip: If you use a stainless steel shaker your hand should be REALLY cold. That means it's ready).
- Strain into a rocks glass over fresh ice (Rich has also been known to put this in a coupe glass, because he can't get enough of a coupe glass).
- Garnish with a pineapple wedge.
Rich: [00:00:00] All right. So we are back and here to talk about culture. Um, and today you just get Caitlin and I. Uh, I don't know, or Caitlin and me. Oh wow, Grammar error. Caitlin and me, you just get me Caitlin and me...
Catelin: yeah I was like, I gotta, I gotta replay it.
Rich: Yeah. Grammar, tangent!
Catelin: Handy home stenographer gotta play it back.
Rich: Um, and I don't know if I'm the interviewer or the guest, or if Caitlin is the interviewer or the guest, I think it might be fluid.
Catelin: There's just like a lot of blurred lines here. Somebody called Robin thicke.
Rich: And now that's in my head. Thank you. Robin thick it is Alan Thicke's fault that we have Robin thicke in all honesty. I know. Right? Ah, but we digress.
Catelin: Yeah, I think... Yeah. I think the, like I said, the, the line is blurry here. This is more of a...
Rich: a conversation.
Catelin: Yes. Yeah. Yeah.
Rich: All right so...
Catelin: I do wanna get it out of the way that like, culture [00:01:00] is such a buzzword. Like it's... so it's like synergy right now. Like workplace culture is such a hot topic as we're maybe on the tail end of the great resignation? Maybe we're still in the middle of it? I think like economically those pieces are maybe still falling into place, but that's been such a like buzzy hot topic.
Rich: I mean, I think we've had a paradigm shift. I, I think that...
Catelin: God, I hope so.
Rich: I think that like the, the great reservation did actually. Is actually happening or did happen. And it is very real. Um, and I think that most of that was the inflexibility of work life. And that inflexibility, like when you've been remote for two years, and I know people in this situation right now, and your company sends out a mass email that says everybody's coming back to the office at this location, eight hours a day. It's five days a week on this date. You're just like. [00:02:00] No.
Catelin: Yeah and I think like removing all of the justification for like, It's like the, like we've maintained an industrial model of work when we are not an industrial working culture any longer, like the, the idea that we're all like cogs in this machine, but that's not really the nature. Of work in the United States anymore.
Rich: Yeah. I mean, and people didn't... NPR did a great story on this. People didn't really go to work until the industrial revolution. Like that's when it happened. Because, and it's really fun watching, like Bridgeton or any of those. Because there are shops and those people go to work obviously to work in their shop.
Usually it's the shop owner and maybe one other employee. But most of the people doing business work have an office in their home and they do it from there and they go to somebody else's home to conduct business. Or go to a meeting hall, you know, or a gentleman's club or whatever in the old time sense...
Catelin: this is a different kinda club
Rich: [00:03:00] D-different kinda club. Yes. Um, I mean you're right. Like watching those shows...
Catelin: I don't have any firsthand experiences.
Rich: There's a, there's a little bit in there, but we did. And I get like, if, if you're physically on a line making a product then yes, you need to there.
Catelin: It's a different story than somebody who just needs an internet connection and an office. You know, a Microsoft office subscription to do their work.
Rich: I mean, and to your point, most people, these days are in that category. Most professional folks. I mean, we still have a lot of manufacturing in the us and that's great, but. We can monitor stuff and we can do things from wherever we are.
Catelin: But it, I just think it's become like, we've infantalized the workforce in such a way that like, we are not like, you can't trust your employee. So like, why do you need to monitor what they're doing? Like do you distrust your employees so much that you need to like have a monitoring system on their (computer) like, if that's the case, like they shouldn't be working for you.
Rich: I [00:04:00] agree. A hundred percent like, don't hire people that you don't trust. Um, and I think when everybody like had to work from home for a while in 2020, you know, we were uniquely set up for that. And people just left and it was fine. It was perfectly fine. I mean, I actually polled everybody and said, do you wanna come back to an office? And we were about 50/50, and some people were literally 50/50. I wanna be in the office parttime and not, I think that was where you fell. Like I liked the office, but I also liked being productive at home. Um, and I'm the same way I try to do Fridays at home. I get a whole bunch of stuff done. Oops. Touched my cocktail there! Sorry about that little noise there. Um, talking with my hands and whacking my cocktail, but, um, I can also do laundry.
While I'm like reviewing stuff. Yeah. And it just makes life balance a little better. Mm-hmm um, we had enough people who wanted to come back otherwise we wouldn't be paying any rent.
Catelin: Jettison the commercial lease...
Rich: We would've. We would've jettison two of those and that money would've gone into helping offset, like your home internet and your cell phone bill [00:05:00] and things that like you have because you're working from your house.
Catelin: Yeah. I think, um, to kind of pull this back to like our overarching point, what is so interesting to me is that part of the reason personally I wanted to be in office is because I enjoy the people that I work with every day. And so I think. More so than this like snacks in the break room and like beer in the fridge. Like that's not culture that's perks you know, like that's a benefit.
Rich: I mean, to be clear, there are snacks in the break room and there is beer in the fridge that, that does happen.
Catelin: Yes. There's probably also some like weird, mixed drinks in the fridge too. But I think like to define culture as a perk, as opposed to. Like having a safe and secure working relationship with the people that you interact with either internally or externally, but that, that like [00:06:00] freedom to be people first, instead of the idea that like, you have to leave part of yourself at home.
Rich: Yeah. That show on apple TV right now, severance.
Catelin: Oh, I... okay.
Rich: But the premise is basically there's whatever goes on at this office. And I haven't watched it when we seen the trailers, but they ha they have, they go through a brain surgery that they cannot remember anything from work when they're at home. And when they're at work, they cannot remember anything from their home life. Something happens as they switch the building. I don't know if it's like an electronic thing in their head or whatever.
Catelin: That sounds horrifying.
Rich: But, yeah. And it's, it's almost like, I I'm sure there are corporations out there going like, God, can we do that? Can we do do that? Can we not have them talk about personal stuff while they're at work? And I think that, like the idea of culture being a place is completely misplaced. I think the place can help with culture, but it's not what creates it. Uh, I don't feel like we lost culture in the six or seven months that everybody was a hundred percent remote. We shifted it. We did different things.
And some of those things we still do and some we don't [00:07:00] um, and I also think to your point, it's not a thing that you get. Like it just, it's not a tangible culture. Is this feeling and it's this sense of belonging? I think in a big way.
Catelin: Yeah. I think that's why. People or companies wanna define it as snacks and beer and ping pong or whatever it is like, because it is such an intangible feeling and it's different for everyone too. But I think for us as an agency, the idea that we are people first and we also understand that we have lives outside of the seven and a half hours that we spend at our desks and being able to frame that and share that with the people that we work with is really valuable.
Rich: Yeah. And I think it's been, we've been fortunate. We're definitely people first. Um, and we have gone through, I can think of two very specific times, including [00:08:00] 2020 when we had people who were probably not as busy as they needed to be. Definitely weren't what I would call profitable as individuals. Um, but we didn't, we held onto 'em because we knew it was a temporary downturn.
And we did everything we could to keep all of the people on and we actually ended up growing in 2020. We almost doubled over a year in size. I keep hitting my cocktail glass. We need to stop talking with my hands. Producer Zac is gonna yell at me for the ding ding. Um, but at least, you know, we've actually got cocktails here. So I think that's a big piece of it. And I think that kind of is where benefits spur from there's that people first mentality. Where it's like, well, I also want these people to be healthy and so we have health insurance even though legally we don't have to. And dental. And vision and all of those things, and you should be saving for your retirement like I do.
So we have a 401k with a really nice match apparently better than it's supposed to be according to our accountant, but , nothing's changing with it. It's staying exactly as it is. He just said it's actually best in class for companies a hundred times [00:09:00] our size. And I'm like, okay, like I just know that it's fair. It makes sense. Um, and those things cost us money. And I see that on the bottom line, I know exactly how much everything costs. Um, but those are like perks and those are things that we do. And I think you touched on it. And I think for me, it really comes down to kind of three things with the team, from a feeling I want you to feel safe. And I know that you are very good. If somebody comes in to the office, coughing, grilling them and assessing them and like...
Catelin: where'd that come from?
Rich: Yeah. Hey, uh, I...
Catelin: How are ya feeling today?
Rich: Doesn't sound like allergies over there. Maybe you wanna work from home?
Catelin: Yeah. And I think like when I think about safety, it's less in a physical realm for me than it is for like an emotional or psychological sense that like, I know that I won't be belitled or made to feel stupid. Like. When things, maybe aren't going the way that [00:10:00] they're supposed to, or if I'm not understanding something like that has never been the reception. For us, you know, like we are one, we're a small team. We're also a young team. Not necessarily me. I mean, we are all learning big stuff right now. And being able to say like, Hey, I don't a hundred percent understand that. And knowing that we're gonna be met with. A helpful perspective, as opposed to like derision is more kind of in line with my safety need.
Rich: Yeah. I think that there's a physically safe and a mentally safe creating that safe space. I mean, and hopefully it helps that, you know, I ask Jessica for help all the time. I ask Jesse for his opinion. Yeah. Constantly, um, I'll have suggestions, excuse me, for somebody. But I don't necessarily like, know how to form it into the thing it needs to be. I just wanna get it out and then let them go do what they [00:11:00] do. Um, and so hopefully modeling that helps, I really believe in like, you have to practice what you preach kind of thing.
So the safety piece is there. I think the second one is security um, and that goes to, you know, no layoffs during the pandemic. We managed to get through that and fund payroll and yeah, not a lot else, but we got through it and came out of it okay. And that's security knowing that, you know, I'm here for the foreseeable future , the company, I want it to live on beyond me when, you know, I'm not working here.
Catelin: When I retire with our spectacular retirement benefits.
Rich: Right, right. Absolutely. Um, and just that security that like. Is, if you're doing what you need to do and you're coming into work and you're performing and you're getting things done, um, you've got a job. Like you're not going to just, I'm not gonna come in and just say, you know what? I need to cut 10% and headcount is the most expensive thing. So two of you gotta go. Vote on who gets taken off the island. So horrible. And just really looking at that security, I [00:12:00] mean, and we've had people self-select out, um, and that's perfectly fine. Um, and you know, would we fire somebody if we needed to? Well, yeah, like if there's a huge problem.
Catelin: We would try everything else before that.
Rich: And I think that everybody is aware that we would try everything else before that. Yeah. It's really trying to coach and help and guide. And if we hit a point where that's not working. Even that we approach with a conversation. Like it's not a, you know, you come in at eight o'clock and you're escorted out or the building's locked.
Catelin: Here's a box.
Rich: Yeah. It's a conversation about like, and it gets to me to my third one is, which is happy. So you should be safe. You should be secure and you should be happy. And you know, it's not that you're overjoyed in everything you're doing. We all do stuff we don't like. But the idea that most of your day to day is a thing you're good at. And feel like you can excel at and are proud of excelling and a thing you like to do. Um, because nobody likes to come in every day and feel like they're struggling. And just failing constantly. Um, and if that's where somebody [00:13:00] is, we need to find either a different seat for them. Or we need to have that conversation about maybe this isn't the place for you. There's somewhere else you can be happy, but it's such a different conversation to have that than to be. "You're not performing, you're fired".
Catelin: And it's this, like, the end result is sometimes the same. As far as like...
Rich: yeah, they leave, they part ways.
Catelin: In the end somebody is no longer employed, but the way in which you arrive at that point can be such a north star for the people that are left too. That knowing, like, I can speak up and say, like, this isn't really jiving with me and how, how can I fix this? Or how can we fix this?
Rich: Yeah. Nobody should feel like they're going to get fired for something they say or something they question or something they ask. Um, those are all things that in all honesty, I wish people question more. I wish people asked more. I wish people challenged more. You can tell me I'm being a [00:14:00] fucking idiot. Because we'll have a conversation about that. But at the end, if you're right, I'll concede and be like, yeah, that was really stupid.
Catelin: Maybe not right away, but...
Rich: Well we gotta have a conversation, we gotta work that out. It's the same thing with a sibling or a spouse, a best friend. If you challenge them directly on something, they don't always accept it immediately. You have the conversation and sometimes you change and sometimes they change. Um, but rarely does it result in like, screw this. I'm never seeing you again.
Catelin: My husband and I have been married for it'll be nine years this year. If I'm doing the math right. I'm not gonna do that math right now, correctly.
Rich: Math is hard.
Catelin: It's too much. Uh, I have other talents and they're not math. But in those nine years, and like, as we've gotten older in our relationship and now we're parents to a small person. There are things that you realize will not change about [00:15:00] your partner.
Catelin: And what do you do with those? But I think it's the same in a career or work environment. Like there are some things that will just be the way that they are and how do you. Like respectfully acknowledge that about someone and then continue to carry on and hopefully allow them to do work that's fulfilling and also beneficial.
Rich: Yeah and I think one of the benefits we've had is we've got a flexible culture as well, like flexing and ebbing and flowing is kind of part of it. And so, um, we've had several people who have morphed from what we thought they were gonna do in the job description into another place. That's actually super valuable. And sometimes what they were doing has to be carved out and put somewhere else. And sometimes there's stuff they were doing, we're just like, oh, nobody needs to do that. We don't really need that function. And it goes away or we can outsource it or we just stop doing that service because we don't need to. And it's more valuable to do [00:16:00] something else. I can think a two or three instances where somebody has come in on a specific job and within a year done something completely different. Like, I mean, I know producer Zac, we never told him when he got hired a year ago or whatever that was that he was gonna be producing podcasts for us.
But when we said: "Hey, (lets start a podcast)" He's like: "I love podcasts. These are great. I'll figure it out." Like, so yeah, it's really fun. All right. I think we've got like one more topic, um, kind of about like benefits as they relate to culture.
Catelin: I don't, yeah, I don't have an answer for this because I think I'm an outlier where like, I will choose like hours and like feeling before I will choose. Like sometimes pay before I'll choose like health insurance, like some of the like froofy intangible stuff comes first for me. So I'm the wrong person to ask this question.
Rich: I think it it's it's actually, we probably should have had a guest on this or maybe [00:17:00] we make it another podcast later on. Because I've like, it's interesting at I've had jobs that paid a lot of money. And I'm not really monetarily motivated. I like to have enough, don't get me wrong, and honestly, if somebody wants to throw a couple hundred thousand at me, I'm gonna take it.
Catelin: We're not mad about it.
Rich: Like no, not mad about it at all, but I have a, if the job is also really taxing and awful and stressful and not enjoyable. There's a point where you can't throw enough money at me to keep me there. And when I was younger, it was a lot easier. It was less money and I would last longer. Yeah, the older I've gotten, I don't know, as though some of the jobs I've had in the past, I would go back to for any amount of money. um, I mean, that's...
Catelin: You don't have the breakup goggles where it's like: "oh, it wasn't that bad."
Rich: No, not at all. And I think as, um, a business owner, part of the hard part of that is, you know, I'm here and I'm doing this and I'm working really hard to make this environment work for us. But, [00:18:00] um, It's... There really isn't an out for me. Like I don't go, I'm not going anywhere else. I'm not... I can't just quit and go find a new job. And so for me, I wanna make it the best place I wanna be. And I think, I hope that makes it the, a place that you guys wanna be and that everybody wants to be. And I know not everybody's gonna stay here forever and some will and some won't and...
Catelin: You're stuck with me.
Rich: That's the nature of it. But, um, But ideally we continue to bring people in who buy into that and who agree with what we agree with and get that feeling. And honestly, I hope that, you know, the culture that we have and the feeling that people get in, yes, to some extent the benefits. People get those intangibles above and beyond the salary. And while, you know, in some instance, our salary might be a little bit lower than they could make somewhere else. And people believe me, people are rating everybody. Like I would go do it in a heartbeat tomorrow. And some companies are just throwing money at it. That lasts for so long. And then it's like, but I don't have this and I don't have this. [00:19:00] They don't have health insurance. Like.
Catelin: I'm working 80 hours a week.
Rich: Yeah, I'm working weekends.
Catelin: It's not... We scold people like...
Rich: oh yeah, I scold all the time.
Catelin: No, it's seven o'clock. You should be doing anything but this...
Rich: I've been scolded by you. I think a couple times.
Catelin: This will wait until tomorrow.
Rich: Absolutely. So, yeah, I think that that's, and I think that's where culture can really benefit you. I think there's a whole nother podcast, cause I'm sure we're outta time and we're gonna yell at for the length of this, but, um, a whole nother one on how it helps you attract the right client and how the wrong client can damage your culture, the right client or customer can really enhance and improve your culture. And also they're gonna stay longer just like an employee if they resonate with your culture. Um, but again, Probably not a tangent for this episode.
Catelin: The bottom line is if we're hiring, you should probably come work here because we'll treat you like people and we'll give you popcorn or trail mix.
Rich: Yeah. I wish that I could hire everybody, [00:20:00] but we do have limited positions, but they open up every once in a while. Um, it happens and so just, you know, keeping an eye on the website and, you know, then you could be featured in a podcast, right?
Catelin: You could come hang out with us we're so fun. We got beer in the fridge. It'll be great.
Rich: With that. I think it's time to go and head out for this episode. Thanks so much for chatting with me, Caitlin. It was really fun.
Catelin: Always a pleasure.
This week's quick tip might be an unpopular opinion. A good company culture isn't having beer in the fridge. Good culture provides your entire team with psychological safety and allows employees to show up to work as themselves.
Rich: That's it for another episode of cocktails, tangents, and answers.
Catelin: We hope you enjoyed listening. We enjoyed recording and this week's cocktail.
Rich: You can find me on Twitter or Instagram at Rich Mackey. I try not to make it too difficult. It's just my name. And you can find our agency at [00:21:00] antidote_71. That's A N T I D O T E underscore 71 on Twitter and Instagram as well.
Catelin: And you can find me at home sipping a craft cocktail prepared by my in-home bartender. It's my husband.
Rich: We'll be back next week with another episode and a whole new cocktail recipe, plenty more tangents. And of course, answers to those pressing marketing questions.
Catelin: And if you'd like to send us a question, you can go to CTApodcast.live to get in touch.
Rich: Or you can call our hotline at 402-718-9971 and leave us a voicemail. Your questions might be used for future episodes of the podcast.
Catelin: For now, like, and subscribe, and we'll see you next week.