How to build a really awesome organizational culture

We wanted to put a spotlight on a business that understands what it means to have great organizational culture, so we started searching for some shining examples.

That’s when we noticed Grasshopper. A company that helps business owners run their operation using cell phones, they offer services like call forwarding to mobile devices, vanity numbers, voicemail transcription, and more.

organizational culture

And while they go above and beyond for their customers, they do the same for their employees, too. I spoke with Emma Siemasko, Head of Content Marketing at Grasshopper, to get an inside look at what it’s like to work within a company that puts so much focus on making the workplace fun and inspiring.

Brand DNA: The Makeup of Grasshopper’s Organizational Culture

Back in 2003, Co-founders Siamak Taghaddos and David Hauser wanted to create a place where people actually enjoyed coming to work. That’s why they decided to build their brand DNA in a two-fold format–with internal culture and customer perception. By investing in their employees, they’ve been able to improve their customer perception–because happy employees are more motivated, more productive, and just downright more pleasant to interact with.

“Our team is passionate about helping entrepreneurs succeed; we work hard, enjoy our time — and just get stuff done.” –Siamak Taghaddos, Co-Founder and CEO

They’ve also taken the time to define what their company values are. They spell out GARY, which is the name of the company’s mascot.

G: Go Above and Beyond

We strive to exceed the expectations of the people we work with and the entrepreneurs we serve. From taking ownership of responsibilities outside of our job description, to remaining committed to a project from start to finish, we go above and beyond to make a positive impact on everything we do.

A: Always Entrepreneurial

Being an entrepreneur means taking the initiative to find new and innovative solutions to daily challenges. This proactive approach to problem solving requires us to effectively calibrate risk while still thinking creatively and strategically.

R: Radically Passionate

Passion fuels our lives and ultimately paves the way to greatness. We create, evaluate, and innovate with pride and enthusiasm reinforcing our position as company ambassadors.

Y: Your Team

Successful teamwork requires listening, sharing and keeping an open mind. Teamwork is achieved by leveraging individual strengths and overcoming differences to produce the optimal results. Working in this way cultivates trust and respect for each team member and maximizes productivity.

These values translate into the physical office, too. Within the Grasshopper workspace, you’ll find:

  • pool tables
  • game room
  • workout center
  • snacks and coffee

Other perks include:

  • Flex hours
  • Half-day Fridays in summer and winter
  • Profit sharing
  • Healthcare and 401K

But it’s more than just a few perks that contribute to the organizational culture here. “We have an open floor plan so everyone is accessible and are really deliberate about maintaining our culture through ‘lunch and learn’ sessions, charity work, and much more,” Emma said. The company even has a designated Culture Team, with three employees who’s sole focus is keeping the culture alive and well. “They bring in guest speakers, organize internal events–we even just recently went to the Zappos headquarters in Las Vegas to see another great example of workplace culture first-hand.”

People are taking notice, too. Grasshopper was nominated for a Timmy Award for Best Workplace in Boston, was noted in the Boston Business Journal 40 Under 40 Awards, took bronze in the WOMMY Awards, and more.

The benefits of strong office culture

Grasshopper is reaping the benefits of their organizational culture, too. There are several indicators that prove the investment into organization culture is paying off.

First of all, turnover has rapidly decreased, going from 25 to 10% in 2008. While at one point in its past Grasshopper had 200+ employees, it now has about 45–a much smaller and more specialized team. With fewer employees to manage, the Grasshopper leadership can put more focus on its small group of core team members.

The company has also seen steady growth as well. They aim for 10% growth each year and currently serve more than 150,000 customers.

“I think that when employees feel taken care of, they’re compelled to take care of the company, too,” Emma said.

Advice for improving your own workplace culture

So how can you transform your business’s culture and values? Here are a few tips based on Grasshopper’s success:

  • Establish written values. Make sure each team member knows them and lives them at work.
  • Break down barriers. Give people opportunities to work with others, regardless of their department.
  • Have fun. Make the workplace more enjoyable by adding a few perks for those times when mental burnout takes over.
  • Be flexible. When you allow employees to run to a doctor’s appointment or shift their work hours, it shows trust.
  • Educate. Provide ways your team can keep learning and improving their skills year-round.

Organizational culture is what you make it. Model yours after the folks at Grasshopper, or invent one all your own. Just stop waiting for the right time to make a change. The best time is the present.

core values list

Photo credit: Sparrow’s lensrahego

Kaleigh Moore

Kaleigh Moore is no stranger to small business. She's the Founder of Lumen -- a business that offers copywriting, social media services, and graphic design. When she's not contributing to the EnMast blog, you'll find her running or at the movies (because the running helps manage the movie snack consumption.) Connect with Kaleigh on Twitter, LinkedIn, or read her blog.

Comments

  1. Kaleigh Friend says:

    Well deserved! Thanks for reading.

  2. We’re big fans of investing in culture (that’s one of the reasons we loved your story). Thanks for sharing so generously!

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