XChange 2017: 10 Ways Solution Provider Intrust Has Made Company Culture The First Order Of Business

SMB Success

What's the secret to success for Intrust, a small 25-employee solution provider in Cincinnati? Vice President of Business Development Chad Adams said it is the company's 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 The Channel Company's XChange 2017 conference Monday. Instead, he said the company has found success building a culture deliberately around identity, values, beliefs and behaviors. That culture has resulted in no employees voluntarily leaving the company since May 2015, 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. Take a look at 10 things Adams said Intrust has done in its journey to improve company culture over the years and set itself apart in the industry.

Strong Leadership

Intrust started by making sure the company had strong leadership in place, establishing a tight leadership team of four people, Adams said. From there, the company developed more concise and direct communications, as well as more effective meetings.

Flexible Structure

Intrust adopted a flexible organizational structure under which employees are assigned very specific roles in the company and must manage themselves and make decisions around those roles, according to Adams. In doing this, he said employees get more autonomy to make decisions without waiting for management.

Focused Mission

Intrust developed a focused set of goals and a mission for the company, which Adams said centered around the values of empathy, ingenuity and happiness. He said those values are repeated often, especially to new employees, until all members of the team live and breathe the company mission.

Improve Communication

Communication is also a key foundational transformation for the company's culture, Adams said. Intrust developed daily "huddle" meetings -- similar to a football huddle -- where employees for seven to 10 minutes every day share something that went well the previous day, what their plans are for that day, any client issues, and any pats on the back for other employees. He said all employees are required to attend, even if they are out of the office. He said Intrust also does monthly companywide meetings where employees can ask management anonymous questions on the state of the company.

Open Book Management

Intrust opened up its financial books to its employees in 2016, under a philosophy called Open Book Management. Under this approach, Intrust made individual employees responsible for certain business metrics, even if the individual was a technical employee without a business background. Those employees would be responsible for that metric, including reporting, forecasting, and having financial conversations with management around it. Adams said this was important because it educated employees and got them engaged and feeling like they had a stake in the outcome of the business. Intrust put up a scoreboard, where every Tuesday the company would update the numbers to share with the full staff.

"It was an eye-opener," Adams said. "It's great to have people rowing the boat with you." Employees were rewarded for hitting certain metrics, such as getting a percentage of their salary as a bonus for hitting a certain gross profit number.

Update Employee Feedback

Good employee communication includes a strong feedback loop, according to Adams. To improve this area, Intrust added new initiatives for better employee recognition, more timely feedback to employees, and allowing them the ability to effect change.The company uses a variety of tools to facilitate this, including OfficeVibe, Trakstar and 15five.

Have Some Fun

It isn't all about serious company initiatives to improve company culture, Adams said. The company also has a lot of fun with its employees, he said. One time, Adams 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 at which employees can get a week's paid vacation after one year of employment, and renting out a movie theater for a showing of "Rogue One."

Have Your Employee's Back

It is key for employees to know that you have their back, Adams said. Intrust has on at least one instance fired a customer who treated a help desk employee poorly. He said that employee now "understands that we value him here and he would never want to go anywhere else."

Employee Stock Ownership Plan

Intrust wants to continue putting more of the business in control of its employees, with a plan to fully establish the company as an employee stock ownership plan by 2020, Adams said. The owner will at that time start selling stakes in the company back to employees, culminating in his eventual retirement. Adams said transitioning to an ESOP is a "stair stepping" process, but will ultimately allow employees to have a greater stake in the company and step outside of their comfort zone to learn new things.

Apply To Be A Best Place To Work

Finally, Adams said companies should apply to be recognized locally as a "best place to work." He said it is usually free to apply on a local publication's website. If won, he said the title provides good marketing for the company website, as well as lots of feedback on the company culture, comparing it to other companies in the area, market, and around the country. He said that feedback can shine light on areas that need improvement or highlight areas the company is doing well around culture.