How One VAR Made Culture A Differentiator For Its Business

What's the secret to success for Intrust, a small 25-employee solution provider in Cincinnati, Ohio?

Vice President of Business Development Chad Adams said it is the company culture.

That culture isn't about buying ping pong tables or having a keg of beer in the office, Adams said in a presentation at XChange 2017 in Orlando, Fla. on Monday. Instead, he said the company has found success building a culture deliberately around identity, values, beliefs and behaviors.

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The stats backing up the impact of a strong company culture are clear, Adams said, as he noted that companies ranked on Fortune's "100 Best Companies to Work For" list outperforming the S&P 500 and having employees that are 59 percent less likely to look for a new job in the next 12 months.

At Intrust, Adams said the impact has shown in no employees leaving the company since May 2015 voluntarily, even though local competitors may offer the same hours and job functions for more pay. He said customer satisfaction has also stayed above 99 percent for two years, something he credited in large part to the company culture. The company was also a consistent finalist as Cincinnati's "Best Place to Work," as published by the Cincinnati Business Courier.

Intrust didn't always have a strong company culture. The evolution to a company with a focus on culture and what Adams called an "engaged culture" has taken a few stages.

Adams said Intrust started by making sure the company had strong leadership in place, establishing a tight team of four people. From there, he said the company was able to develop more concise and direct communications, as well as more effective meetings. Management of employees has also shifted to a flexible structure under which employees are assigned very specific roles in the company and must manage themselves and make decisions around those roles.

Adams said Intrust was then able to develop a more focused set of goals and a mission for the company, which he said centered around the values of empathy, ingenuity and happiness. He said those values are repeated often, especially to new employees.

Communication was also a key foundational transformation for the company's culture, Adams said. He said Intrust developed daily huddle meetings, where employees typically share something that went well the previous day, discuss their plans are for that day, including any client issues, and they are encouraged to recognize other employees for their work. He said all employees are required to attend, even if they are out of the office.

Intrust also holds monthly company-wide meetings where employees can ask management questions directly. He said the company has also opened up the company's books to employees, making them responsible for certain performance metrics, and giving rewards to employees for hitting certain overall business goals.

Communication also extends to employee feedback, he said, with new initiatives for better employee recognition, more timely feedback to employees, and allowing them the ability to affect change. He said the company uses a variety of tools to facilitate this, including OfficeVibe, Trakstar, and 15five.

Finally, Adams said the company did have some fun. He said Intrust took the whole company for half a day on a Friday to do white water rafting. He said the company has also created incentives for hitting goals, like buying a lake house employees all get a week's paid vacation to stay at after one year of employment and renting out a movie theater for a showing of Rogue One.

With a strong cultural foundation in place, Adams said Intrust is now using the culture to help it achieve its business goals. That includes bringing the team together to hit goals around recurring revenue percentages and seats of managed services.

"It was amazing to me when we set goals and communicated over and over and focused on them and kept score how focused people became on those goals," Adams said.

Adams said Intrust is now working to further engage employees more in the future of the business itself, including transforming the company by 2020 into an employee stock ownership plan.