How to Actively Create (And Lead) a Culture That Attracts the Best Talent

Written By: Kyle Musser


When it comes to the business of building your company and growing your brand’s influence, the thing that really matters to the eventual success or failure of your business is people.

But more than just attracting great team members, what matters more than ever is the experience of working with you.

Whether you’re a startup, a local brick and mortar retail business, or an established brand. The real truth is that there’s much more to our creative work than just making money, punching the clock, stacking that 401k, etc.

I think about this a lot when it comes to hiring, growing, and leading a team here at Digital Conversion Labs.

So even if you don’t have any full-time team members to lead (yet), remember the old saying…

“Build your house on the rocks, not on the sand.” 💭

I say this because right now I’m exactly where some of you that are reading this might be. Digital Conversion Labs is still pretty much a solo shop with contractors that come on from a project to project basis.

But even with this purposely designed business model, I know just how important it is to have the proper values and principals in place from the start as you grow your business.

And while some of you might be wondering why I place such a high importance on this or even why the hell this matters. I mean, business is business right?

Not exactly.

I’ve worked for a few established brands where my expectations going into the opportunities was that I would have the freedom to express my ideas, share my own values, show my true authentic self, have fun, etc. based on what I was initially promised heading into those opportunities.

Which basically lead me to envision days in the office where it was like Rob Dyrdek’s Fantasy Factory…

via Giphy.com

But experience would come to show that those brands and most businesses for that matter are anything but a day in the life at the Fantasy Factory.

So when it comes to culture, the reality is that any business (big and small) has the potential to fail if the (founder, entrepreneur, chief culture officer, etc.) doesn’t set the right tone from the beginning.

Do this and forget throwing rocks in your big beautiful glass corner office.

Instead, you’ll have to worry more about your business crumbling down because you didn’t intentionally put efforts into building a great culture.

Maybe this was just my experience back in my corporate consulting days, but rather than allowing the freedom of expression and of course the ability to have some fun, it was more like this on a daily basis…

via Giphy.com

I don’t place any blame on anyone else looking back at my own experience. But as I look back throughout this first part of my career in my 20's, I always thought to myself there has to be a better way of building culture around a business.

A way in which the CEO wasn’t the only person to get his bonus in a company of 500+ team members. Yes, this actually happened.

And while that experience definitely added fuel to the fire which ultimately much pushed me over the edge, I also know that it’s more than just money that motivates people.

If it was just about the paper, we wouldn’t hear headlines like…

“70% of people feel completely disconnected from their work.” 💭

Now, I’m quite aware that many of you have grown up in a world where the experience of business was never well, let’s just say designed for creative self-expression.

Business by definition is meant to do a couple things — maximize profit and produce widgets as efficiently as possible.

That being said, there’s a cultural shift in business that’s been happening as the digital age continues to disrupt the nature of work.

So today, I’m specifically speaking here to creatives, entrepreneurs, and young professionals who are either,

A) Building a business where at it’s heart it involves creative expression in service of consumer needs…
or,
B) Searching for a brand through which allows them to express their highest creative potential…

So if either one of those sounds like you, let’s dive in.

Seth Godin Best-Selling Author, Speaker, Entrepreneur, and Thought Leader, talks about the 21st century nature of work and creative expression quite frequently.

In fact, he recently talked about it in an interview with Chase Jarvis from CreativeLive

And while both Seth & Chase are masters in the world of creative production, we’re not necessarily here to talk about the genius of creativity today.

What Seth does talk about is the fact that there needs to be major changes in how we approach things like education, creativity, and even in how we approach our daily work.

This might sound familiar, but it used to be something like…

You go to school, get your degree in whatever and then you work for a company (or two) for the duration of your career. Where over the course of 30 years or so you rise up the corporate ranks and then after you hit your vesting period you decide enough is enough as you didn’t really love your work anyway. Then after your retirement you slowly slip into days filled with purposelessness and resentment of what you “could have done”.

Sounds familiar?

Maybe it doesn’t sound like your career just yet, which is great that we caught you before that could happen because there’s plenty to be hopeful for.

Which is saying a lot because many business owners and employees alike have accepted the (false) fact that business is just business and how it’s been done is how it’s supposed to be done by maximizing profit and creating trinkets.

Maybe it’s just me, but I’ve always questioned… 🤔

“is this really how business is supposed to be done?”

See the truth is, I believe that many entrepreneurs have failed to live up to their potential as business leaders throughout much of the 20th century.

I say this because I’m noticing some interesting trends which I believe are great for the business world (and society) as whole. Better yet, these trends are being embraced, implemented, and led by many of my entrepreneurial peers.

So while many people (maybe even you) bash my fellow millennials for our “laziness”, “bad attitudes”, or “entitlement mentality”, the truth that we as a generation have made a decision to want more out of the experience of work.

This experience of work is exactly what Wharton Business School professor Adam Grant shares as he addresses the common thread among all human beings, not just my millennial peers…

“At the end of the day, we all want the same basic things out of work. Whether we’re Boomers, Gen Xers, or Millennials, we’re searching for interesting, meaningful jobs that challenge and stretch us. For jobs that allow us to support our lives and families outside work, earn respect and form significant relationships, and make a difference in the lives of others.” — Adam Grant 💭

Thanks for backing me up Adam Grant. 👊🏼

And I speak for my peers (and many others) in saying that we’re (millennials) by no means lazy or entitled when it comes to our careers.

We just prefer to utilize the tools, technology, and resources that we grew up surrounded by to be as productive and efficient in our work as possible so that we can go do what really matters in life like…

1 — Spend time living life to the fullest by traveling and experience first hand all the beauty that the world has to offer.
2 — Find ways to solve all the shit that previous generations have broken (Climate, healthcare, pollution, poverty, education, etc.) by starting for-purpose businesses.

So from what I see, the only reason that there’s a level of entitlement is because a large portion of the experiments of the last 100 years of industrial fueled capitalism have just created bigger problems for future generations which require more innovative, creative, and entrepreneurial thinking from today’s workers as a whole no matter what age demographic you’re talking about.

And this is by no means meant to bash any of the entrepreneurs or business leaders that have paved the way for people like myself and have done so much to move society forward through years and years of innovations.

No, instead meant to highlight this reality…

“If you want to attract the best talent in a global marketplace, you’ve got to realize that working for you is an experience.” — Kyle Musser, Chief Culture Officer DCLabs 💭

See like it or not, there’s a massive shift happening in the workplace.

According to Pew Research, as of April 2016 millennials have taken over the Baby Boomers in terms of America’s largest generation that’s alive today.

So like it or not Mom and Dad, we’re here to stay and we don’t plan on going anywhere anytime soon. 😉

This is why it’s more important than ever that my fellow business leaders and entrepreneurs all embrace the idea that…

Joel Brown Addicted2Success.com

It’s my belief that working for your brand (or Digital Conversion Labs for that matter) should equate to more than just a paycheck. It should be an experience that where there’s an equal (if not greater) value exchange in favor of those that work for your business.

Atlanta based Pastor Andy Stanley shares it perfectly…

“Leadership is a stewardship and you’re accountable.” 💭

We’re called to do better as business owners in terms of the health, well-being, and overall happiness of our team members.

Question is, what are you (and your team) doing to make that happen on a consistent basis?

It’s because of this question that I wanted to share a reminder with all my founders, small business owners, entrepreneurs, and culture builders today that’s meant to remind and guide you How to Actively Create (And Lead) a Culture That Attracts the Best Talent

via Digital Conversion Labs Design Labs

Tip #1 — Don’t just create culture, live it and embody it.

This is one of my favorites. But more than being just a favorite, this is something that you (and your team) have to constantly embrace.

Culture is not something that you talk about solely as a way to con people into working for you or as a public relations and marketing tactic.

Instead culture is the actual experience of what your business is to each of your team members and what it actually means to be a part of your brand.

David Cohen, founder & CEO of Techstars puts it like this…

“If you’re a startup founder, then one of your most important tasks is creating and nurturing a strong culture. But more than anything else, leadership means setting an example with your words, actions and attitude. Your brand is not your colors. It’s not what you say you are, it’s your values and how you act on those values at every point of contact with your customers and your employees.” 💭

As entrepreneurs and brand builders, it’s your job to not only put in place values that drive your startup’s culture forward from the beginning. But it’s also your job to intentionally implement your chosen values into every aspect of your business so that you are able to navigate down the Unlimited Profit Pathway.

Perfect example of this in action is the adoption of one of our core values here at Digital Conversion Labs where we all buy into the idea of a… 💡⚗

“Commitment to Continuous Experimentation,”

And in living that core value out, I’m constantly encouraging my clients and team members to embody this in every aspect of our business and even in their personal lives.

Perfect example of this in action is investing in the health, well-being, and mindset of your employees like Buffer does…

Nice job Joel & Leo. 👏🏼

So whether you’re in the Idea Labs just launching your business or you’ve successfully validated your brand experiment, ask yourself…

“Are we (you and your team) actually living out and embodying our core values as a team? Or, are we settling for less than we’re capable of?”

By having your core values identified and by living out those core values, you are constantly providing your team a level of clarity through which everyone can continue to stay bought into your unique mission as a business.

I also talked more about the idea of continuous experimentation in one of my recent Medium article’s…

Tip # 2 — Leverage digital media to actively share your story.

As founder of a digital shop, I’m definitely a huge fan and advocate of using digital media as a medium to share your brand story.

And what’s cool is that social media and digital technology has provided pretty much everyone the ability to create compelling content and share your brand story with little capital and many times a relatively small investment of time, effort, and resources.

Whether it’s highlighting your brand’s culture on social media platforms like Snapchat and Instagram, or it’s creating content like this video from hashtagworkmode.com….

#workmode “Work Hard, Play Hard Video”

The reality is that you all should be actively sharing behind the scenes of our brands if you want to attract the best talent into your business.

Maybe you haven’t realized it yet, but your people in general want to feel like they are valued for more than just their effort in exchange for a paycheck and some form of benefits.

I know this because I’ve worked for businesses (and brands) that focused 80% of their effort on the bottom line, and 20% of effort on people. Which is why 80% of their people leave (or get fired)… myself included in this mix.

It’s a trend that I see all too often among my millennial peers and is something that I encounter quite often when having coaching sessions with fellow creatives and entrepreneurs when we are talking about talent acquisition and culture.

Every business (including yours) has a story to tell. And it’s within these micro-moments of engagement in the experience that is your brand where you are able to pull top talent in by immersing them into the story of your business’s purpose.

So whether you realize it or not, your audience not only is your conversational capital in terms of converting into paying customers. But it also could hold the future creative rockstar that you’ve been searching for.

So ask yourself…

“Are we doing the best job we can to leverage our social networks and our digital content in a way that attracts and engages new talent around our brand?”

Gary Vaynerchuk and AJ Vaynerchuk are examples of people who get it. Just check out this video from DRock where they are celebrating VaynerMedia 7 year anniversary…

DRock is the man. Check him out. :-)

Tip # 3 — Don’t just focus on your customers, remember your team.

I know how easy it is to get so busy trying to please your clients and your customers that you tend to forget that without a healthy culture and a highly engaged team, there would be no one left to serve your customers anyway.

Today’s work environment is just the beginning of radical changes that are yet to come in terms of how we work and collaborate.

Specifically speaking in terms of culture, it’s up to you to not only listen to your customers but to also to listen to your team members as well.

And I know that things like remote working environments, unlimited days off, all inclusive kitchens with endless snacks, etc., aren’t viable options for all businesses…

The reality is we all (as founders and biz leaders) have the ability to re-humanize the work-life experience and create something special for our teams every single day.

I say work-life because of the fact that for most of us, our work is what’s going to take up the most precious resource we have throughout our lives…

TIME.

And you don’t have to do crazy big things either. They can be simple perks like…

Bring your dog to work day,
Paying for and encouraging your employee’s healthy habits,
2 work from home days per week like Leadpages,
Organic foods and a bountiful array of healthy snacks like Dropbox,
Buying standing desk from our friends over at Chris Kang,

Take some time and think about how you can incorporate or even incorporate the human elements back into your business.

Just remember,

Your core values are never too early to create and culture is never too late to start leading…

Tip # 4 — Get creative.

Don’t know if you’ve noticed the trend yet, but the nature of work (how, where, and what) has and is continually changing.

Example, as I write this it’s Saturday afternoon and I’m sitting in my loft with a cup of coffee and college football Saturday blasting in the background.

And want to know a little secret???

Me sitting here in my “office” isn’t much different than how I go about growing Digital Conversion Labs most of the time.

Now I know what some of you are thinking…

“Well that’s just not suitable for my business or that’s just not possible for my field of work.”

I don’t disagree with that because I know from experience that there are many industries and circumstances in which working “remotely” or growing a “lifestyle business” isn’t possible.

But for just one minute shut off the rational side of your brain, and imagine if you could create a culture in your business where you could allow your team members the flexibility to create how, when, and where they feel most comfortable.

What would that scenario look like for you in your business?

For most of you reading this, it most likely means that you start small and add to your team on a project to project basis as your business scales up.

This could mean hiring virtual assistants and using a service like our friends at Toptal…
Or, it could mean using local peeps from a school near your biz HQ like Christina Nicholson shares in this Fast Company article…

The point is, get creative when it comes to attracting and hiring people into your business. And remember this…

You never know where your next superstar is going to come from…

Tip # 5 — Celebrate all experiments.

How many of you remember a coach back from high school where “good” was never “great” and there was always a better way to win?

Look, I get the fact that many of you reading this (myself included) are addicted to more. Come on, say it with me…

“My name is _______ and I’m an addict.”

There’s nothing wrong with wanting more and striving to create a great business and an abundant life.

But what’s dangerous is when you’re leading a team and your addiction doesn’t allow your team the space to celebrate experimentation.

This is especially pervasive in western culture where we’re fueled by addiction of more..

More money,

More customers,

More wealth,

More growth,

More, more, more.

In my own process of wanting more, there’s one thing I’ve come to realize along the pathway to profits and that’s this..

“Today’s problems are what are going to lead to tomorrow’s biggest opportunities.” — Kyle Musser

Whether you’re an entrepreneur who’s riding solo right now or are a small business with a growing creative team. The goal should be for you to lead your team and create a culture in a way that celebrates the process of creative expression.

And I’m not saying that you shouldn’t measure the outcomes or that you that you stop to celebrate every win as if your team is only entitled to fully experience the wins and never any of lessons learned from losing.

No what I mean is that everything both “good” and “bad” ultimately can become great for your business.

I believe whole-heartedly that there are many “micro-learning lessons” through which can become the creative spark of genius needed to the next breakthrough in your business.

Whether they are initially celebrated as successful or unsuccessful experiments isn’t the point. The point is to celebrate this process of initiating, validating, and iterating ideas.

I envision that the businesses of which are going to stand out in a world of constant innovation are going to be the ones that foster a culture that embraces a responsible commitment to continuous experimentation.

And this doesn’t have to be some crazy big shift of culture if you have an already established business.

It can be as simple as creating and utilizing a Slack channel where every Friday your team checks in with their biggest win and biggest lost of the week.

Or for those of you that work in a physical office or cow0rking space, it could be a implementing open beer:30 sessions every Friday where everyone is encouraged to share lessons from the pathway to unlimited profits.

Speaking from experience, any time you have the ability for connection in-person I encourage you to take advantage of that. 👥👥👥

Know that don’t have to make it a big event or put tons of planning and resources into this process. Instead, just use create some sort of forum through which allows for collaboration and connection among your team members.

And for those of you that are visual learners (like me), here’s a pretty cool (and funny) resource I found too…

Oh, and here’s a great video from Steve Blank and inc. magazine where he talks about how he encourages founders and entrepreneurs to adopt similar thinking…

Tip # 6 — Build community around your brand.

When it comes to building an epic brand that stands out, I personally immediately think about one thing and that’s this…

Community.

This by far is what’s going to help your business stand out among your peers in whatever niche you’re in.

See, we’ve gone through an era of deceptive “branding” where brands were more or less created as vehicles through which 5th Avenue Ad Execs could help companies sell more stuff.

And what’s sad is that it didn’t matter the consequences that associated with the products that many of these so called “brands” were selling either.

Just think back to when you were a kid and ask yourself what your typical meal looked like. If you’re like most people, your “food” wasn’t actually food at all. Or what I would consider food anyway. 😏

Either way, you’ll probably see the point I’m getting at.

Since your brand’s most important asset is the people in your community, wouldn’t it make sense that you intentionally build a culture that supports people’s overall well-being, happiness, and success?

Whether it’s your customers or specially speaking here in this post today your team members, I would like to think that most of you reading this have the ability to holistically care for everyone that interacts with your business.

We’ve moved into the social age where anyone from your customers, to your team members, and even your cooperators have the ability to interact and feel a deeper connection to whatever you’re team is creating.

And if you want to just create and sell tons of widgets so that you can buy a yacht… all the best to you. 👍🏼

But if you want to create something that’s going to last and stand out from the crowd, you are going to have to intentionally focus your efforts on building and enhancing the lives of your community.

Why is this so important you might be asking???

Well, community is one of the common threads of life for literally thousands of years. As a species, we’ve been coming together in our tribes to share stories, build deeper connections, and create experiences with like minded people for much longer than of you reading this can remember.

And when I look at the brands that are having the most success today they have community in at the center of their brand. Whether they are small niche communities or large well-known brands, the fact is people still do business with people.

Here’s a few examples of what I’m talking about…

Pat Flynn “Food Truckr Community” — Which started off as a small side project has now become a full-blown business which Pat actually partnered with another brand to help expand it…
Starbucks Coffee “My Idea Community” — I know that many of you may have your issues with bucks but, they are always searching for and crowd-sourcing feedback from their audience. In fact, this community sub-brand has 150+ members which has resulted in 300+ product innovations
SueBZimmerman✨ aka “SueBee Instagram Queen” — She’s built a massive community and tribe where she has built a great business on the 3 pillars of profit pathway success: Content, Community, and Coaching…
Pencils of Promise “For Purpose Business” — Starting with an overseas excursion and a near death experience, Adam Braun has built one of the most impactful for purpose businesses of the current day. And not only is he inspiring thousands of others to help out in their mission, he’s also created a movement and community around doing businessfor purpose…
Adobe “Scavenger Hunt” — Yes, the big billion+ $ company even understands this idea. They hosted a scavenger hunt with $10,000 in prizes on the line and free Adobe product subscriptions. Bring on the fun, the community, and the free stuff! Thanks Neil Patel for highlighting this…

These are just some examples. Point is that you (and me both) should all be doing our best to l0ok out for our communities and our people.

Whether it’s starting a private Facebook Group, creating Slack channels, opening up community forums on your membership site, hosting challenges, etc.

I know personally I have hundreds of ideas on how we can build community and foster collaboration here at DCLabs.

The takeaway is just to focus on starting small and think about how community will not only will help drive outcomes like innovation, new product development, sales, hiring, etc. But also how you and your team can also do the little things to make people’s lives better with every interaction that people have with your business.

My man David Siteman Garland from put together this list of 12 Keys to Community Building that’s pretty epic…

Tip #7 — Have fun and don’t take yourselves too seriously.

When it comes to business, many of tend to put up walls that inhibit us from being who we are as people.

People say things like “Be more professional” or “That’s not acceptable at work.”

However, the answer becomes…

“By who’s standards are we talking?”

The reality is when it comes to your culture and how you run your business, part of your values should to give your team members the freedom to express themselves for who they are as people.

Ever seen the show Fantasy Factory??? Just this out and let me know what “normal” means for your business…

Who in their right mind wouldn’t love a work in a place like that?!?! And again, I know that every work situation can’t be as epic as that.

But the reality is we all have a choice when it comes to where we work or how we intentionally build the culture within our brands. Especially you founders and entrepreneurs out there reading this, this falls back on you and your vision for what type of culture that you want to build around your business.

Whether you realize it or not, part of your job is to lead the charge as Chief Culture Officer of your business. And in doing that, you should want to allow the freedom and breathing room for your teams to have fun!

This is something I forget quite often when I get into serious business building mode. But when you surround yourself with great people the great news is that your people will help call you out and realign you around your core values.

And maybe you haven’t experienced it yet, but in my experience happier people product more creative work, get more done, and are overall better team members when you implement culture building initiatives.

So why not create a culture that fosters happiness, encourages creativity, and helps your team members live an overall better life in the process of growing your business?

What’s cool is that when your business focuses on culture building, not you’ll not only will you attract the best talent but you’ll also see your efforts affect the ability for you team to scale much more quickly without the baggage of having team member turnover.

Which then allows room for cool and fun things like this…

At the end of the day, we all have a choice when it comes to the culture we create or the culture we embrace.

Now, it’s up to you. 😬

Culture shouldn’t just be something that you talk about. It should be something that you lead and live out every single day of your business…

TAKEAWAY: Which one of these 7 tips that are meant to show you How to Actively Create (And Lead) a Culture That Attracts the Best Talent are you going to implement into your culture building efforts within your brand?
Be sure to leave your comments below and share it with a friend…
And if you’ve found this valuable, I’d be much appreciated if you could leave a HEART below… 💙

I’m Kyle Musser,

Founder and CEO (Chief Experiment Officer) of digitalconversionlabs.com. Come check out what we’re up to and be sure to check out our FREE RESOURCES by clicking on the link below the image…

via Digital Conversion Labs Design Labs

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