3 Things to Focus on to Build a Great Culture

Michael Jaconi
Dec 10, 2015 · 5 min read

The Button team was honored to learn last Friday that we were awarded the Number 1 Place to work in NY by Crain’s. The recognition is an endorsement of the remarkable people that have joined our team and the great culture we’ve created together.

I am no expert, but I wanted to take a moment and share some of the lessons I’ve learned throughout my career from leaders that inspired me and from my team while building Button.

I believe there are 3 core areas of focus that you need to deliver on to build a great culture.

  1. The Vision
  2. The People
  3. Their Growth

Vision

One thing that I’ve learned as I’ve developed as a leader, through studying and through feedback I’ve been given, is that sharing your vision is as important as having one. What I mean is that leaders are often fraught with so many competing priorities that it’s hard to consider others’ questions or concerns. When it comes to running a company, a number of people are betting on “you” as the leader or leadership team. It’s important to recognize that everyone doesn’t always naturally understand or come to the same conclusion that you do when defining why you’re building what you’re building.

Lesson: Share your mission and your vision, often. Also, do your best to demonstrate the linear path and the sequential steps you’re taking along that journey. If you’re in technology, you’re most commonly building a vision for the future — and this takes convincing people (internal and external) to see the world the way you believe it should be seen (a great post on that here from Stewart at Slack). Then, you need to convince the audience that your technology is the answer to the problem statements of the future. Continually invest in making that case clear and concise — and this will foster greater alignment amongst your team and help you live that vision faster.

People

When building a team, there are certain inherent qualities you need to look for in the people you’re trying to bring into your family. At Button, we have been fortunate to attract some of the best minds representing all the various disciplines inside our organization — from design to product, to engineering, operations, and business.

The part of Button that is different, that stands out, is that we don’t stop there. We have relentlessly pursued finding people that not only represent the top of their respective areas of focus — but we’ve also been dedicated to only bringing people into this group that represent the values we hold dear — and the energy and enthusiasm for the battle ahead.

By holding ourselves accountable and not being short-term in our orientation towards team building, we’ve been able to hire the type of people that you wake up and look forward to working with every day.

Lesson: Build a culture that has core values and principles that you stand on and that serve as guideposts for you and your team as you run your business. Don’t bend in your commitment to those. When hiring, everyone talks about speed and volume, but remember, you’re only as strong as your weakest link. Make sure your effort is as high as it can be, and evaluate and re-evaluate your process to ensure you’re not wasting your team’s time, but never waver in your commitment to hiring the best. Sometimes it takes a little longer, but this will pay off in the future — I guarantee it.

Growth

One commitment that I have made to every Buttonian is focused on growth. I try to ask our team every week and again in Button’s monthly retrospectives — how can we grow, how can we get better? Not only as an organization, but as individuals, and as professionals.

The most important part of any leader’s job is to foster growth across his or her organization. We’re all trying to build great businesses, and we’re all trying to build shareholder value, but the intangible is often the most important…and that’s where I believe Button has excelled.

Regardless of the outcome of your business, a sale, an IPO, or something less desirable — the growth you foster in your team is the most important contribution you can make to your team as a leader. It’s hard, it takes time, and it often doesn’t explicitly correlate to bottom line value. That said, there is no more indelible impact you can make on the people that have put their faith in you.

At Button, we invest in “improvement” and “growth” more than most companies…and I think that’s helped us build a culture people love to be a part of.

Lesson: From professional development and training, to supporting team members taking external classes, and fostering internal knowledge sharing, as a leadership team, strive to make your company a home for individual and organizational growth — and ask yourself weekly if your actions demonstrate that commitment.

In conclusion…

We’re trying to help foster the growth of leaders, and as a team of just 25 with ambitions as big as any company out there, we hope the leaders we’re developing today can help us grow into the vision and ambitions we hold for ourselves for tomorrow.

Again, I know I’m no expert, but I’ve been lucky enough to learn from some great mentors — and one thing we’ve seen at Button is that people are happy and making every effort to do the best work of their careers.

With the amount of time we all invest in building great businesses and with the time it takes and the sacrifices we’re making…I feel strongly that happiness is one of the most important yet often unconsidered priorities we all need to focus on.

So, as a leader, remember that the culture starts with you…and pursue your team’s happiness relentlessly.

____

Button was named the #1 Place to Work in NYC by Crain’s on December 4, 2015.

To arrive at Crain’s annual ranking of the Best Places to Work in New York City Crain’s partnered with Best Companies Group, an independent research firm that dispatched surveys to more than 26,800 employees in New York City. To be eligible, businesses had to employ 25 or more workers within the five boroughs. Scores from employees, who answered a confidential 87-question poll, were combined with scores from a 92-question survey for employers. Questions focused on everything from telecommuting policies to opportunities for advancement. Results from the employee surveys made up 75% of the total score, and from the employer questionnaire, 25%. Although they hail from diverse fields — including technology, law, construction and real estate — the 100 winners have at least one thing in common: a profound commitment to their workers’ happiness.

Michael Jaconi
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