A Culture of Awesomeness

Advice from a startup CEO who’s getting it right

RageOn CEO Mike Krilivsky gets it. A four-time startup founder with a backstory that includes a near-fatal car accident, Mike has built RageOn around a unique and powerful company culture, and he believes that much of the company’s explosive growth — from two to over 25 employees in less than a year, with 5x growth predicted for 2015 — can be attributed to surrounding himself with the right people with the right attitude.

Our team has been working with Mike on his latest venture, SnapShirt, and it’s been clear from day one that the RageOn team is something special. We sat down with Mike to get his thoughts on why culture matters and find out how he’s established such a strong culture within his own company.

Why is culture so important for a young company?

Culture is a key component in any company’s success — especially in the beginning, when you need to ask a lot out of people. Everyone out there is trying to compete, so your message and your motives have to be clear. As long as your message is clear, people will come on board for the right reasons: they believe in what you’re doing.

How would you describe the culture at RageOn?

The RageOn culture is free and energetic, while at the same time being truly focused on bringing smiles to people all over world. We make things we want people to look at and say, “That’s awesome! I have to have that!” That’s when you know you’ve done something good, and that feeling is what we want everybody in our company to strive for.

What do you and other company leaders do to reinforce the culture?

All of our managers are completely in line with the culture and the passion of the company, so it’s reinforced naturally, but we do things to celebrate it all the time. Every Friday we bring in pizza for our team and their guests. Anyone, from our interns to my partners, can bring up any idea or show any design, no matter how crazy it is. We love it when people get to see all of these minds working together to create and innovate and make amazing things.
On the hiring side, every person is screened very carefully to make sure they really do believe in our philosophy. We tell everybody that it’s not just about customer service; we want our customers to always leave happy and thinking that we’re awesome. We don’t hire anyone who shows any sign, within our five-step interview process, that they don’t have that within themselves.

How much of RageOn’s success do you attribute to culture?

The reason I started the brand Let’s Rage, which evolved into the online store RageOn (which is now 70 other brands and hundreds of licensed artists from all over the world), is that I died in a car accident and came back to life in 2010.
After the accident, I had amnesia. As my memories were coming back and I was collecting my thoughts, I had an epiphany. People had been begging me for a couple of years to turn “let’s rage,” my favorite phrase, into a clothing brand. I didn’t do it because at the time I was focused on my band and my record label.
When the accident happened, I suddenly realized what “let’s rage” really means: it means to celebrate the fact that you’re alive. We’re only alive for a short amount of time, and we only have so much time to do something we really love. There’s no reason to hate and no reason not to be happy. That’s when I did a 360 with my life and my mentality.
My friends and I decided we were going to spread this positive message around the world, and that’s exactly what we did. At first no one even wanted money for it — we just wanted to make really fun stuff that people would love. And other people wanted to be part of what we were doing.
So we’ll never know exactly how much our message and our culture have contributed to our success, but it could be 100 percent.

What’s your advice for a first-time founder on how to build a strong culture?

Decide what your mission is. Pick what you want to do and make sure you’re doing it for the right reasons. Either solve a problem or make people happy. People who are in it just for the money always fail [tweet this].

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