By William Vanderbloemen
My first thoughts on building organizational culture weren’t front and center for me until after I had worked in a church and at a for-profit company, and then decided to start my own business.
When I started Vanderbloemen Search Group, I didn’t set out to build a great culture. In fact, I didn’t know what a great culture even looked like, but I knew from experience what it didn’t look like.
The church I had come from was a wonderful place, but it had a terrible culture and part of that was my fault.
The oil and gas company was wonderful, too—an impressive organization where the pay was good and the people were good, but the culture just didn’t click with me.
While I was there, I learned what Hump Day meant and why everyone looked forward to getting past the middle of the week—and closer to the weekend. I started counting the days until my next vacation.
I wanted to leave that company, and at the same time, I wanted to do something to help churches.
One day, I came home from work and told my wife I wanted to quit my job. This was 2008, by the way, which was a very bad time to be quitting any job.
I didn’t realize we were at the beginning of the Great Recession. I had just gotten married and bought a house, and my wife and I had six kids between us.
I was going to quit my job at the oil and gas company and start my own business because I had a new idea for churches, and as everyone knows, churches just love new ideas (said no one ever in the history of churches).
I wasn’t thinking about culture at the time; I was thinking about how I was going to convince churches that it was wise to spend money on hiring the right people.
I quit my job, convinced enough churches to hire me, and a company was born. As I added more people, our culture was born, too.
I started with just one employee, me, and we agreed on everything. It’s amazing how wonderful the culture can be when there are no other people to consider.
But as I started hiring people, it became clear to me that if I wanted to avoid creating a culture I didn’t want—the kind I’d experienced in my previous jobs—I needed to pay close attention to the people I was hiring.
As I added people to my team, I started to see a pattern develop. I hired a team member to help out with business development.
She was smart, positive, and energetic, and she fit the culture I did want. Holly was the kind of person I wanted working at my firm. More importantly, she wanted to work for me.
I asked Holly a lot of questions about why she wanted the job. It wasn’t the specific work, the location, the money, or anything else I expected to hear—she was personally committed to our goal of finding pastors for churches, and she liked how we were doing it.
That’s when I got my first glimmer of an idea as to the kind of culture I wanted: a culture where people weren’t showing up because it was their job, or just for the pay, but because they wanted to be here. They wanted to be doing what we were doing, the way we were doing it.
What if, I thought, I only hired people who wanted—really wanted—to do this kind of work, at this kind of company, the way we were doing it, and with these kinds of people? What kind of culture would that inspire?
I started thinking about this with every new hire. Within six months, I had doubled my staff. A culture was developing organically.
As we grew, culture became more and more important but also harder to maintain. How could we keep our culture as our team scaled?
That caused me to take a step back and reverse engineer the steps we took to creating a great culture so that we could systematize and scale our culture.
From staff values to a culture calendar, we began an intentional process of infusing our culture into the nine stages of the employee lifecycle, which became our roadmap to building and scaling an irresistible workplace.
Excerpted from Culture Wins: The Roadmap to an Irresistible Workplace
WILLIAM VANDERBLOEMEN (@wvanderbloemen) is an entrepreneur, pastor, speaker, author, and CEO/Founder of Vanderbloemen Search Group (VSG), an executive search firm that helps organizations find their key staff. VSG has been named four and three times to the top of Entrepreneur.com’s Top Company Cultures list of small businesses and Houston Business Journal Best Place To Work list, respectively.