The 3 P’s of a Winning Company Culture (Hint: Ping-Pong Isn’t One of Them)

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TSheets was honored to land at No. 4 on Entrepreneur’s 2016 list of 50 Top Company Cultures in the Large-Sized Companies category. We were also excited to be featured alongside the 15 best company cultures in America on Entrepreneur.com.

TSheets CEO Matt Rissell has always made culture his No. 1 priority — and his efforts have clearly paid off. This isn’t the first time TSheets has graced Entrepreneur’s top company cultures list, and (if we have any say in the matter) it won’t be the last.

But Rissell isn’t under any illusion that a foosball table in the breakroom and a fridge stocked with PBR earned his company this exclusive spot. And many other winners of the top company cultures award seem to agree.

“If you ask the most successful founders about how to create an environment that inspires and supports employees,” said Entrepreneur staff writer Nina Zipkin, “they will tell you that office perks like kegs and ping-pong tables simply won’t cut it.”

But if office perks don’t cut it, what does? What makes a company culture the best in the country? We took a look at Zipkin’s list to find out.

1. People

“Put your people first.” That’s the advice of Shay Hughes, COO and founder of Hughes Marino, No. 3 for mid-size company culture — but it rings true no matter what size your business.

When you put your employees first, they feel empowered to make decisions and share ideas. They feel valued. And Duane Hixon, CEO of N2 Publishing believes that making employees feel valued is one of the major keys to success.

“If you value and care about [your employees],” he said, “they can buy into what you are building.”

That employee buy-in is important when it comes to employee retention, engagement, and productivity. Employees are simply more invested in their work when they feel invested in the company. (More on this in a bit.)

Stu Sjouwerman, CEO of KnowBe4, summed it up best: “Be inclusive,” he said, “and don’t treat your employees like mushrooms.”

In other words, don’t keep your employees in the dark — or treat them like a fungus.

2. Purpose

“Be clear and purposeful.” This advice comes to us from Ryan Westwood, CEO and founder of Simplus, No. 2 for mid-size company culture. But many leaders on the list seemed to agree.

For most, creating a winning company culture all starts with creating a clear mission, values, and purpose — and hiring employees who naturally embody those goals and attributes.

“It takes your whole team to build a great culture, but only one or two people to destroy it,” said Mike Harris, COO at Uproar PR. “When we hire, we look at culture fit before everything else, including experience.”

After all, technical skills — the skills required to fulfill job duties — can almost always be taught. But culture is innate. It’s not something you can (or should even try to) teach. It’s got to be there from the start.

For that reason, “We use our culture as lens to decide who would join the company,” said William Vanderbloemen, CEO of Vanderbloemen Search Group. “For me, culture trumps competence every single time.”

And Tooey Courtemanche, CEO of Procore, agrees. “If you aren’t hiring based on the values,” he explained, “you’re going to get a hodgepodge of input to the culture, and it’s going to degrade.”

Work really hard. Play really hard.

3. Passion

“Make work meaningful,” said Bryan Miles, Co-CEO of Belay, No. 1 for small-business company culture. “People want to work in a place where there is meaning.”

When employees feel like their work is making a difference, they’re more likely to feel invested and passionate about the work they’re doing. When that happens, they’re more likely go the extra mile for your customers, be more productive, and stick around for the long haul.

In short, passionate employees are happy employees — and happy employees are invaluable to your company and your culture.

But, remember, it all starts with you.

“[Culture] starts at the top,” said Scott Cotter, CMO of Skuid. “[It’s] not something that HR can own, it’s not in a binder — from leadership on down, we have to live it.”

And Kyle Taylor, Founder of The Penny Hoarder, agrees. “Practicing what you preach is a big component of implementing your culture,” he said.

In the end, yes, it takes more than a ping-pong table and a keg in your breakroom to establish a culture. Much, much more. It requires people. More specifically, the right people. People who embody the very values that define your company. People who are driven by your company’s purpose. And people who are passionate about your company’s mission.

It requires a founder or CEO who not only puts culture first, but lives and breathes the culture alongside his or her employees.

“A winning company culture can’t be fabricated,” said Matt Rissell, TSheets CEO. “It has to be embedded in the company’s DNA from the very start.”


Read more about the 15 best company cultures in America and
learn how to create a winning corporate culture your own organization.

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